The University of Hawaii Athletics Department's deficit hit a record $4.2 million in the 2015 fiscal year, and is expected to grow to $4.8 million the following year, UH Athletics Director David Matlin said Thursday.
Speaking at a UH Board of Regent's meeting at the Windward Community College, Matlin said the "changing collegiate landscape" will mean that the deficit could grow even more over the next five years.
"We learned that Hawaii's financial model was inconsistent with the rest of collegiate athletics and that Hawaii has challenges that other schools do not," he said.
A key factor: the UH football team's losing season. Revenues are down to $2.9 million. During winning seasons, football revenues are about $5 million.
Another reason: "Because of our location we have higher travel costs for our games. Also because of our location we have to pay teams to compete in Hawaii as well as subsidize their travel costs," he said.
"These categories amount to a $5.2 million in unique costs due to our geography. Without them, we would have a significant surplus ratter than a deficit."
To turn around the program, Matlin listed three key approaches, including:
Increasing appropriations from the state Legislature;
Increasing support from the UH;
And raising student fees.
"If those fees were increased by $12.50, each year for a four year period starting in 2017, we could generate an increment of $1.7 million," he said.
But some oppose fee hikes.
"It basically comes out of the students' pocket," said UH Professor Robert Cooney, chairman of the UH Manoa Faculty Senate's executive committee. "So I think that has to be addressed. It has to be fair. If the students don't want to pay for athletics, they shouldn't be required to do that,"
Until now, the athletic department's deficits were paid for by the University. But as it faces its own financial problems, UH wants to find other sources to pay for the growing losses.