comscore Ferd Lewis: Nick Rolovich’s departure helps the University of Hawaii’s bottom line | Honolulu Star-Advertiser
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Ferd Lewis: Nick Rolovich’s departure helps the University of Hawaii’s bottom line

  • ANDREW LEE / SPECIAL TO THE STAR-ADVERTISER / NOV. 2019
                                Nick Rolovich spent four years as Hawaii football coach before being hired by Washington State on Jan. 14.

    ANDREW LEE / SPECIAL TO THE STAR-ADVERTISER / NOV. 2019

    Nick Rolovich spent four years as Hawaii football coach before being hired by Washington State on Jan. 14.

In a roundabout way, the University of Hawaii athletic department might have Nick Rolovich to thank for softening some of the immediate financial blow from COVID-19.

Not because he led the Rainbow Warriors to a 10-5 season before leaving for Washington State in January. And, definitely not because the football ’Bows were bringing in beaucoup bucks at the box office in their divisional championship season. They weren’t.

Instead, they could thank him for simply packing up his Indiana Jones hat and leaving.

That’s because there was a clause in his last UH contract that required a $425,004 buyout within 90 days of departure for another head coaching job, unless he gave 30 days advance notice.

And, now, that check comes due April 12.

Be assured that money will be quickly put to use by UH, which like all of its 351 NCAA Division I basketball-playing brethren, has an urgent need for a cash infusion. “The money will be used to assist us with revenue shortfalls due to COVID-19. (i.e. NCAA),” UH athletic director David Matlin confirmed in an email.

The NCAA is referenced because it has notified its member schools that it will be substantially reducing its annual payout due to the cancellation of its lucrative men’s basketball tournament. The tournament is, by far, the association’s largest money-maker, taking in as much as $900 million in media rights, ticket sales, sponsorships and merchandising.

The NCAA had been due to distribute about $600 million to its members and their conferences this year prior to COVID-19. But due to the cancellation of March Madness, it will be parceling out about $225 million, much of it taken from reserves, instead.

UH received a total of $1.3 million in various NCAA distributions in the last fiscal year.

The $425,004 check from Rolovich via Wazzu is based upon the amount he had been scheduled to receive for 2021 under the terms of the contract he signed in June 2019. Though, after the Mountain West division championship, he would have been on track to get a hefty raise had he stayed, but still nowhere near the $3 million a year the Cougs were willing to cough up to entice him to the Palouse.

A Wazzu source said the payout to UH was calculated into the deal it struck with Rolovich.

That marks it as not only the biggest win-win deal UH has gotten when one of its coaches has left for greener pastures but a significant example of how the school has improved its handling of the minefield of coaches contracts.

Too many times over the years UH has had to buy out coaches it wanted to get rid of at six-figure amounts. When it came to coaches who bolted to pursue other jobs, however, it was a rarity when the school got something more than a wave of good-bye.

In the wake of the whole Gib Arnold/NCAA violations chapter and changes in the UH Office of General Counsel under Carrie Okinaga, the school has tightened up how it negotiates and writes contract language for its coaches.

To be sure, Rolovich’s going away money won’t erase the current much less the long-term financial impact of this COVID-19 episode for UH athletics. But it figures to help lower it a notch through a means that hasn’t always been there when UH needed it.

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