comscore ‘When’ as important as ‘what’ in Arnold talks | Honolulu Star-Advertiser
Ferd's Words

‘When’ as important as ‘what’ in Arnold talks


If you want an early read on where the University of Hawaii’s negotiations with men’s basketball coach Gib Arnold appear to be headed, ponder the significance of July 1, 2011, to the process.

You suspect it is hardly a coincidence that the date is said to be the targeted starting point of the new contract under discussion as well as looming as the first day of the new fiscal year.

The date isn’t an indication that the parties won’t get a deal done any sooner as much as it is a demarkation point that suits their purposes.

On the heels of a surprise 19-13 inaugural season, Arnold is seeking to tear up the "major terms for agreement" signed a little more than 13 months ago, while UH is trying to take care of its coach without blowing a gaping hole in its budget during the final weeks of the current fiscal year. No small balancing act in these austere times.

Athletic director Jim Donovan has been under orders from the Board of Regents to run the enterprise "more like a business," which means continuing to make progress on reducing the string of annual deficits. UH athletics has operated in the red for eight of the past nine years, and this could be the first budget in three years to come in with less than a $1 million shortfall.

That would be noteworthy for a department that has effectively "been borrowing cash from other university units" to pay its bills since 2002, according to a report by an independent auditor.

Now, in the wake of the best debut season by a UH basketball coach in 37 years, comes Arnold’s request to renegotiate the terms of a two-page "agreement" that never became a fully executed contract. In view of the ’Bows’ success, “I thought it was a reasonable request and we’re working on it,” Donovan said, declining further comment.

If the original proposal for a 10 percent raise on a $240,000 annual salary was where these talks were headed, it would be something that could likely be fitted in the current fiscal year that expires June 30, 2011. Likewise, if this was simply a redrawing of some incentive clauses there would be little need to bump it into the next fiscal year.

But if there is something more substantial in the works — as appears to be the case — it makes sense to tuck it in into 2012, where it might be better dealt with and less painful.

UH will still have to find a way to fund any enhancements, of course. But at least this way it provides more time and allows the department to cash in on the goodwill from the first postseason appearance in seven years during season-ticket sales. Not to mention making the books look better in the interim.

Meanwhile, expect head football coach Greg McMackin and his representatives to be keen observers of how these talks play out since they are next up for a seat at the negotiating table.

Coming off a 10-4 WAC tri-championship season and three-year 23-18 run, McMackin is looking for an extension of a $1.1 million-per-season deal that is scheduled to expire after the 2012 season and the push figures to come this summer.

How UH deals with Arnold, notably how much is left in the piggy bank after business is concluded, figures to have something to say about McMackin’s prospects as well.

Reach Ferd Lewis at

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