At last year’s Western Athletic Conference media preview, in a potshot heard ’round the football world, University of Hawaii head football coach Greg McMackin used a gay slur while trying to joke about Notre Dame’s flight chant.
The incident drew national criticism, and cost the highest-paid state employee one month’s salary as part of his UH-imposed punishment.
On the first anniversary, the topic is expected to be recalled — except by McMackin, whose 30-minute, meet-the-press session is scheduled for tomorrow’s opening day of this year’s media preview in Salt Lake City.
"Next question," McMackin repeatedly answered when asked about the incident during a telephone interview with the Star-Advertiser.
When pressed, McMackin said, "I don’t want to talk about it anymore. Next question, please. It was a year ago."
UH athletic director Jim Donovan said McMackin fulfilled the terms of the sanctions set by Manoa chancellor Virginia Hinshaw. McMackin was docked 30 days’ pay during August 2009 — which, based on his original $1.1 million annual salary — amounted to $87,302. (McMackin’s voluntary 7 percent pay cut, which runs through July 31, 2011, was not part of his punishment.)
Donovan said the athletic department transferred $35,000 to the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex Student Services at UH-Manoa.
In January, the athletic department conducted four diversity workshops covering LGBTI issues in sports. More than 300 student-athletes, coaches and staff, including McMackin, completed the training.
But McMackin will not provide any updates during this year’s media preview.
"They’re going to hear me say, ‘Next question, please,’" McMackin said. "I’m not going to talk about it. I’m only going to talk about this year’s football team. That’s all. Next question, please."
During his interview with the Star-Advertiser, McMackin discussed other areas.
On hiring Mouse Davis, 77, as an assistant coach:
"He’s taught everybody the run-and-shoot. There’s nobody who knows the run-and-shoot better than Mouse Davis. He’s taught the whole country the run-and-shoot. The Colts, the Patriots, the Jets — all of the four-receiver offenses — have the run-and-shoot in them. He is truly an innovator in the game of football, and there aren’t a lot of innovators. Most ideas are borrowed. He’s had a lot of his ideas borrowed. He’s energetic. He’s in his 70s going on his 40s."
On why it was the right time to promote Dave Aranda to defensive coordinator:
"Calling plays isn’t an easy thing to do. Some people think it’s easy. You don’t have many seconds to make a decision. You have to be organized. You have to make quick decisions in pressure situations to put the players in the right position to make plays. I feel he’s an outstanding coach. He knows the package as well as anybody. He’s a brilliant guy, and a well-informed guy. He’s always working to get smarter in football, going to pro camps and going to clinics and calling people, and watching tapes. We sort of shared the duties the past couple of years, as far as calls at certain points. I have no doubt he’s ready to go. He made a good percentage of the calls from halfway last season, and I have complete confidence in him."
On promoting Nick Rolovich to offensive coordinator:
"He knows the run-and-shoot. He did a great job last year, which was evident. We were, what, third in the country in throwing the football? It’s really the entire staff that makes the game plan, but Rolo is going to call the plays. He has a guy like Mouse Davis … (to) bounce things off of. That’s a good thing. It’s about preparation and execution."
On the Warriors being picked to finish anywhere from the middle to the lower part of the WAC:
"Those people look at our schedule. It is challenging. We have to get ready for our opener with USC, then we have to travel to New York (to face Army), and then to Colorado. Every team in the WAC will be tougher this year, and that’s including us. Our team is looking forward to this challenge. The players, the coaches, the academic people, equipment people, trainers have all worked hard to get ready for this season."
On rejecting a walk-on offer from quarterback Jeremiah Masoli, who had been kicked off Oregon’s football team:
"It’s important to me that we have team chemistry. He’s a good athlete. He’s going to be successful somewhere. It sounds like he might go to one of our opponents. We’ve had a bunch of quarterbacks working hard and competing and going through some things, and it’s just not the time to throw another guy in there. And at other positions. We’re strong at receiver and we’re strong at running back. I think he’s an outstanding player, and obviously everybody in the state knows that, but it’s just not the right fit right now."
On Andrew Manley, an All-State quarterback from Leilehua High who signed with New Mexico State:
"In that situation, he was the first guy we offered as a quarterback. We offered him in his junior year. And, obviously, kids look to get whatever the best offer (they) can. He was in that process. He’s a great person and a great player. And then we offered another player, and told them the first person to accept (gets the scholarship). That’s how you recruit. We can’t wait until the last day, or we may be left with no one. We made sure they all knew it. We only had one scholarship for a quarterback, and Kevin Spain was the first to take it. I did keep, because I like Andrew, a grayshirt scholarship for him, and told him that. He’s going to go to New Mexico State. I know he’s going to do good. We’ll probably face him next year."
On local recruiting:
"What we did is identify every player in the state. We have a Junior Day, where we have the top 100 players in the state, and their parents, come in to the university. We know who the top 100 players are. (Offering scholarships) depends on how they fit in our scholarship system. Like at quarterback, we’re not going to recruit another quarterback for a while. We’re loaded at quarterback. We may not at corner. There may be positions that people on the outside don’t realize what our basic needs are. We look at the grades. There are certain guys who aren’t going to qualify. We try to be very specific. If you offer a guy a scholarship and he takes it, and he’s not the right guy, you’re stuck with him. We have our system, and this system has worked over my years in coaching. We know what we’re doing. Anybody on the mainland who says this guy is a three-star or a four-star, they may not know that the guy just got into a fight or what his grades are. We know more about Hawaii players than anybody in the country."
On entering his third season as UH head coach:
"I want to get myself in better shape so I can handle the responsibilities and be in the best shape that I can be in. I have two families. I have my personal family and my football team. I feel responsible to take care of both of them. I would die for either one of them. … I have two big jobs. One is to graduate the players so they all get degrees. The second thing is to win football games. I talk to them about how important it is to represent the state. Little kids look up to them. I’ve been told by Mufi Hannemann, when we win, nobody is calling in to gripe about potholes. I understand people pray for us and will us to win. We had a fundraiser to pay for summer school for our players. I tell the players: ‘In the toughest economic time in history, these people are giving their hard-earned money to send you to summer school.’ I won’t waste their money. If anybody gets an F or doesn’t go to summer school, they pay for their own summer school."
On this season’s outlook:
"I’m really excited about this team. The team has worked hard in the offseason. We have maturity for leadership, and we have some talented young players. They’re very athletic and competitive. We won four of our last five games, and it’s basically the same group coming back, plus our freshmen. Our coaching staff has worked hard getting ready for the season. We have our first three games broken down, and the game plans made. We’ve been working hard in recruiting for this year and for next year, since the last ballgame. But we’re still a young football team. The first group I recruited are all redshirt sophomores. That’s the starting point. That’s why they give (coaches) five-year contracts. When a program has lost players, it takes at least four to five years to build a program. The thing is, I feel we have enough veterans and young guys, we should be tougher the next year than we are this year. But we’re going to be a very competitive team this year."