comscore Hopefully, Governor-elect will more than dabble in sports | Honolulu Star-Advertiser
Ferd's Words

Hopefully, Governor-elect will more than dabble in sports

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Sometime tonight the state will have elected a new governor and the University of Hawaii will cross its fingers a little tighter that it has been blessed with an astute and active backer in Washington Place.

Now more than ever — to borrow a non-gubernatorial campaign slogan from races past — the Warriors/Wahine/Rainbow Warriors/Rainbows need a friend in the highest of places.

It is probably too much to ask that the governor-elect, whoever it might be, follow in the considerable footsteps of the pacesetting late John A. Burns, to whom the school owes a vast debt in so many areas, athletics included.

To Burns, victories on the athletic fields and arenas were symbols in overcoming what he termed the "subtle inferiority of the spirit" across the board. And he backed a remarkable vision with not only the power of his office but his own checkbook.

If not for him, there would be no major college athletic program now, no conference affiliation and no stadium in Halawa. Maybe no televised golf tournaments or other major events, either.

His successors have — sometimes for better, other times for worse — dabbled in athletics in their own ways in a state where sports and politics have hardly been strange bedfellows.

John Waihee, a regular at UH baseball games, gave his stamp of approval to the building of the Stan Sheriff Center. Ben Cayetano used his office to bring sponsors and UH together, even correctly chastising then-football coach Fred vonAppen for "not quite getting it" with a scorched earth approach to public relations.

George Ariyoshi, after taking in the 1980 College World Series, got behind the building of Les Murakami Stadium. He was also cited in the 1977 NCAA Committee on Infractions’ report for allegedly giving a basketball player $65 "to reimburse him for $65 stolen from" the player’s room.

Much of Linda Lingle’s hands-on sports experience was as Maui mayor in securing the Hula Bowl.

The times in which UH and, indeed, sports in the state in general find themselves now scream for someone who will be more than a silent or token supporter. We are in a period that requires a governor who will go beyond Little League proclamations, ceremonial appearances and photo ops.

What the situation needs now is somebody who will have a vision that can work in tandem with what game plan UH draws up, and maybe even prod Manoa when needed.

To be sure, the governor-elect will have an extensive array of pressing issues, of which sports will be well down the priority line. But if need be, you’d like to think the next governor could buttonhole some western peers and make UH’s case for a conference membership or bring state lawmakers and community movers and shakers together.

The good news is that both Neil Abercrombie and James "Duke" Aiona have UH degrees and decades of sports familiarity. Both have spent time talking issues with athletic director Jim Donovan and others.

The hope is that the governor-elect will be a difference-maker in athletics, among other areas. Because waiting another four — or eight — years for another one to grab a role is a luxury we don’t have.

Reach Ferd Lewis at flewis@staradvertiser.com.

 

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