It was one of those "It’ll never happen" things.
"Someday, University of Hawaii baseball can turn a profit again," I’d say, between innings and bites of a Warrior Dog, to anyone who would listen.
"You’re crazy. Never. Those days are long gone." Those were the standard responses from the wizened longtime observers at Les Murakami Stadium, usually accompanied by a dismissive laugh.
Well, the impossible has come to pass — at least according to pre-audit numbers supplied by UH. They say the Rainbows baseball team brought in $122,948 more than it spent in the past fiscal year that ended June 30.
Low six-figures is a drop in the budget bucket when we’re talking about an overall department allowance of close to $30 million. But to be on the plus side after decades of red ink is a big deal for the baseball ‘Bows — especially when you consider how few college baseball programs produce more in revenue than expenses: five or six a year out of more than 300 Division I teams.
It’s one of five UH sports in the black for 2009-2010 … and the biggest surprise, even for a naive true believer like me. Baseball used to be a revenue producer back in the glory days that peaked in the 1980s, but that was a long time ago.
Athletic director Jim Donovan concedes he "rebuilt the spread sheet" format a little this year (but within proper accounting and legal parameters — remember, there is an independent audit to come).
"It’s a fairly accurate view of direct expenses and direct revenues," Donovan said.
That’s good enough for me, as long as he doesn’t count anything twice and the numbers are real and they add up. Oh, and let’s get the wet blanket out of the way now: There’s still going to be an overall deficit for the year, just not as much as previously thought.
BASEBALL COACH Mike Trapasso said there’s no real secret to his program’s financial turnaround.
"I’d attribute it to three things," he said. "Great fans. We always try to play a great schedule. And we try our best to watch the bottom line."
A winning team led by a local star, Kolten Wong — that didn’t hurt one bit. And the Rainbows will have a good head of steam for 2011 as defending Western Athletic Conference tournament champions.
One of the biggest smart-money moves was consolidation of road trips. UH had to pay for just three trips over the ocean in 2010, compared to five the previous season.
So the great comeback continues for Trapasso. Many who keep an eye on UH baseball, including myself, thought he should’ve been relieved after the disappointing conclusion of the 2009 season. He’s definitely proved worthy of the contract extension he got from Donovan then, and the one he received after advancing to the NCAA tournament last spring.
THE VOLLEYBALL programs should always profit financially at UH. The women do, and the men — energized by new coach Charlie Wade and freshman sensation Jonas Umlauft — turned it around last season. All Hawaii volleyball fans ask for is a winner, and Wade appears equipped to deliver on a consistent basis. Now it’s a race for the next national championship.
Donovan rightfully calls men’s basketball "the big X-factor" when it comes to money. There are a couple of reasons for this. First, March Madness. The Rainbows profited by $464,441 last season; you wonder how that’s possible when attendance was so bad and so was the team, but the $355,000 in NCAA tournament appearance money from the WAC for the accomplishments of other schools explains it.
Likewise, some of big breadwinner football’s $3,898,703 profit comes from UH’s cut of Boise State’s appearance in the Fiesta Bowl.
Hawaii won’t get any of that kind of money anymore if it goes independent in football. But, if the Talking Heads make a comeback and once in a lifetime recurs, UH won’t have to share its Sugar Bowl loot.
I know what you want to say. Go ahead.
"It’ll never happen. You’re crazy. Never. Those days are long gone."