3 UH coaches will step down from athletics director selection panel

Three University of Hawaii Manoa coaches who signed a letter asking for UH to immediately appoint acting Athletics Director Rockne Freitas to the position permanently plan to resign from UH's AD search committee, sources said.

Committee co-chair and head football coach Norm Chow plans to step down from the panel, as do women's volleyball coach Dave Shoji and women's basketball coach Laura Beeman, sources said.  UH was expected to issue a news release with that development as early as Thursday, a source said.

The official reason being given for their resignations was that their practices and games during the fall conflict with the committee's meetings, sources said.  But the coaches came under fire for tainting the fairness of the selection process by joining dozens of other coaches in supporting Freitas for the AD job before a search process had even begun, and some people called for their resignation.

The committee held its second meeting early Tuesday morning at a location away from the UH Manoa campus, sources said.  None of the three coaches attended that meeting, a source said.  The three were not immediately going to be replaced, a source said.

The 15-member search advisory committee held its first meeting Sept. 4 in a conference room at the UH Manoa chancellor's office in Hawaii Hall.  The meeting, which began at 7 a.m., lasted nearly two hours, with most members present in person and some joining the group by conference call.

Sources said a majority of the committee disregarded calls by Chow to appoint Freitas as AD right away. Beeman also advocated for Freitas' immediate appointment, a source said.  Chow and Beeman worried that as an interim department head, Freitas could not make key decisions about the budget and hiring.

But sources said other committee members felt if Freitas wants the job, he needed to apply and get the post legitimately, through a search process in competition with others.  Freitas, a former associate UH AD, has applied for the UH AD post twice before over the years and never got the job.

Chow, Beeman and Shoji, all search committee members, joined about 40 other coaches in signing a petition asking for Freitas to immediately be given the job. Sources said Chow championed the letter drive and at least half a dozen coaches claimed they signed the document under pressure from other coaches.

Bonnyjean Manini, the head of the UH Manoa faculty senate who also serves on the search panel, said Aug. 31 the process already looks and smells unfair.

"There is a foul on the play and it is foul-smelling as well," said Manini, a 12-year UH employee who chairs the legislative body that represents about 2,200 UH Manoa faculty members.

Manini told Hawaii News Now last month that having three members of the search committee endorse Freitas before the search has gotten underway "sends the message that we're going into a search process already knowing who we want for the position.  And that doesn't seem appropriate for higher education.  We should be setting an example that we cast a wide net."

At the Sept. 4 search committee meeting, co-chair Howard Karr advocated for the coaches to remain on the committee, so members can hear input from the athletic department. The committee members went along with Karr's recommendation, figuring with three coaches out of a 15-member search committee, the panel can still maintain a fair balance, sources said.

After the first meeting, Karr told Hawaii News Now, "The committee has signed a confidentiality agreement, so I have no comment at this point."

Manini, Chow and the other members of the selection committee declined comment because they too had signed confidentiality agreements in which they pledged not to talk in public about the candidates or the process. Karr, a former Board of Regents chair who is not a UH employee, threatened committee members if leaked information was tracked back to them, they would never serve on a UH search committee again, sources said.

The advisory committee reports to UH Manoa Chancellor Tom Apple, who decides who will be hired as AD, with the approval of UH's all-volunteer Board of Regents.

Asked about the coaches who backed a candidate serving on the search committee, Apple told Hawaii News Now, "This is not totally unusual to see this kind of support for someone who has proven to be very capable."

Asked if Apple believes the coaches' petition should preclude them from serving on the search committee, Apple said, "I'll leave that to the committee to decide.  I didn't want to make that call.  I think that's pre-empting the committee."

Apple delivered his "charge" to the committee Sept. 4, giving them their instructions for the AD search.

"I want us to get the best person who can take us to that level where we garner the support of the state so that athletics does not compete with academics, it's not a drain so that we compete at the highest levels in all sports," Apple said.

Freitas, who currently serves as vice president for students affairs and university and community relations, was also appointed acting AD July 11 when AD Jim Donovan was placed on paid leave in the aftermath of the canceled Stevie Wonder concert.

Freitas previously said he wasn't interested in the permanent AD post, but there are those on the UH campus who wonder if this whole effort isn't being orchestrated to allow Freitas to get the job quickly without a full search and interview process.

Asked Aug. 31 if he's now interested in being AD on a permanent basis, Freitas said, "I haven't thought about it because I'm too busy" carrying out the two jobs at the same time.

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