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Jay's plane-ticket benefit is money poorly spent

By Dave Reardon

POSTED:
LAST UPDATED: 09:01 a.m. HST, Dec 19, 2012



In this season of giving, the University of Hawaii is displaying its generosity.

Misguidedly so. With state resources. Again.

At $293,000 per year, incoming athletic director Ben Jay has been offered the biggest base salary ever for a Hawaii AD.

Yes, you've got to put out some fairly serious money to get someone you hope is good for this important job. No beef with that.

Jay, who finally will be officially introduced at a press conference here Thursday, looks like he might be worth it on paper. He's No. 2 at Ohio State's huge athletic department.

But there's an outlandish perk in UH's offer that proves again the Manoa leadership is tone deaf to public sensitivities. It screams entitlement ... UH actually uses that same word, "entitlement," to describe it, as well as a few other more reasonable benefits.

What doesn't make sense is UH providing eight mainland trips a year for Jay's wife and three children, presumably to UH sports events where Jay is working.

I got a chance to talk with Jay about this on the phone Tuesday. He said he didn't ask for the benefit, that it was not the result of negotiation. "It's all part of the offer (from UH)," he said.

Since it's not clear through the wording if we are talking about eight or 32 tickets per year for the family members, I asked Jay if he knew. He answered that he's also not sure. It is on a list of questions he has for his new boss, Manoa Chancellor Tom Apple, after Jay arrives in Hawaii today and before officially signing on.

I tried to ask the folks at UH, but got no answers.

When I noted that it seems generous, Jay agreed.

And it's good to know he's not asking for his wife and kids to be on a bunch of business trips with him, at the public's expense.

Now, it's not like this kind of publicly funded family travel would be completely unprecedented (remember the Sugar Bowl?), and it might even be standard operating procedure for some schools. But even if it is a total of just eight tickets per year and not 32, can UH athletics afford it?

No way.

UH is not one of those rare behemoth college athletic programs swimming in profit, with a football program that brings in more than $30 million a year after expenses like Ohio State.

You can argue that UH sports aren't credited enough for what they bring in, but that won't make the $11 million deficit disappear. Of course, neither would saving several thousand dollars a year if this perk isn't used.

If it is, UH could try to say the expense isn't being paid by state taxes. But it's still a public resource, like everything else of value that goes through this state university's ledgers. Like the $200,000 that the athletic department lost last summer.

It brings the question of priorities into play, especially after a football season in which the Warriors shaved a day off road trips, and took a long bus ride instead of paying more for a plane ride from L.A. to Fresno. There were also road games where UH did not take as many players as it was allowed.

There might be a rare mainland function, like a major award ceremony, where it would be legit for Jay to take his wife on UH's tab.

But in most cases, it's really pretty simple: Anyone other than a student-athlete on a trip funded by financially beleaguered UH should be serving a work function.

———

Reach Dave Reardon at dreardon@staradvertiser.com or 529-4783.






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