Sports Jay’s sights set on lifting UH into Big 5 By Cindy Luis Jan. 27, 2014 Mahalo for supporting Honolulu Star-Advertiser. Enjoy this free story! “We’re trying to become one of the Big 5 Read more Mahalo for reading the Honolulu Star-Advertiser! You're reading a premium story. Read the full story with our Print & Digital Subscription. Subscribe Now Read this story for free: Watch an ad or complete a survey Log In Already a subscriber? Log in now to continue reading this story. Activate Digital Account Print subscriber but without online access? Activate your Digital Account now. Last week’s NCAA Convention in San Diego was as re-energizing as it was frustrating for Hawaii athletic director Ben Jay. He finds himself straddling the equator of college sports with an equally clear view of the antipodes that exist, particularly the financial inequities. As a senior associate athletic director at Ohio State, Jay was part of the Bowl Championship Series that created a chasm between the haves and have-nots in college athletics. The BCS morphed into the "Big 5," which now has rebranded itself as the "Higher Resource Group." While Jay joked that he couldn’t wait for that logo to come out, he is serious about getting Hawaii athletics out of what could kindly be called the "Lesser Resource Group" and into that HRG. The key issues at last week’s convention revolved around money and autonomy, and the five major conferences want more of both. The discussions included giving $2,000 stipends to student-athletes in selected sports and raising the scholarship limit in football from its current 85. Both have been tabled as the NCAA board of directors also seeks to restructure its own governing processes, including giving more of a voice to the student-athlete and representation from those who are in the trenches daily: the athletic directors. "The one thing that struck me, being a financial guy, is that when you talk about adding a football scholarship, you really are talking about two scholarships," said Jay, beginning his second year as Hawaii’s AD. "Because of (gender equity) numbers, if you add some in football, you have to come up with an equal number on the women’s side. Or that could mean taking away scholarships on the men’s (non-football) side. "Maybe because of all the money (the HRG) get, they feel they can afford to do that (add scholarships and $2,000 stipends). But the rest of the folks are happy as it is with the parity. It allows us to compete." Jay said there were minor conferences ready to cede autonomy to the HRG, but those were conferences that either would never be able to commit financially to compete at the Division I-A football level or that don’t sponsor football at all. The latter is part of the straddling Jay is doing as he stands with the football-playing Mountain West as well as the non-football Big West, which houses most of the remaining UH sports programs. Conference affiliation dichotomy aside, Jay’s focus is on Hawaii, overcoming the financial struggles and all the residual effects that come along for the ride. Money equals resources and resources equal better chances of winning … on the field as well as in recruiting battles. "In football, we are not just recruiting against the Mountain West schools, we are competing against the West Coast schools, even for the top players in Hawaii," he said. "We need to update our facilities, renovate what we have in order to be competitive in the recruiting game. "At Ohio State, there was no excuse not to win. They had the resources to fully fund their (37) sports, to have the recruiting budgets and have the facilities. Here at Hawaii, we have bits and pieces of those things. "We’re trying to become one of the Big 5, and that means money. That is the driver that will get us there." Hitching a ride means expanding on the $32 million operating budget. Jay said he was encouraged by the proposal Rep. K. Mark Takai (Aiea) made to the legislature earlier this month for a one-time $10 million "gift" to the UH athletic department. The proposal included a 50 percent match requirement where the state would provide $2 for every $1 raised by the athletic department. Jay has a list of 10 projects, some to be done immediately, some down the road. One is creating a dining room in the athletic complex for all student-athletes. "I hosted our 4.0 (GPA) student-athletes at a dinner and, to a person, their big issue was no place to eat (in the athletic complex)," Jay said. "They spend a lot of time down there with practice, at the academic center, in the training room, and there is no place for them to swipe their meal card and get a nutritious meal. When the student workout center moves to the new Campus Center, I can see turning that space into the student-athlete dining room. "And, looking at the long-term, we have to start talking about a new (football) facility. We’re not going to solve the issue with Aloha Stadium. (Manager) Scott Chan does a helluva job when operating within the system that was created, but he has to make money off the swap meet and off our (football program) assets to make his budget at a state-run facility." Jay does believe that it is possible for Hawaii to become an athletic program attractive enough for either a solo invitation to an HRG conference or to be part of the Mountain West’s goal to expand the Big 5 into a Big 6. "I think the Mountain West is on the cusp and has the best chance if that happens," he said of joining the HRG. "It’s going to take a huge effort by all those who love University of Hawaii athletics, and I mean everyone — fans, businesses, the legislature and the university. We need everyone to pitch in if we do want to not just get to the next level but to stay competitive when we do." Previous Story Team Rice edges Team Sanders in Pro Bowl Next Story Goodell: Pro Bowl 'exciting fun'