HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Given what they’ve spent on the position over the last four years, it’s safe to assume that the next head football coach at the University of Hawaii won’t be inking a million-dollar or more per year deal.
That means you can cross off many of the top-tier candidates with big name recognition on your list to succeed Nick Rolovich.
“You’re not going to get a first-line football coach paying what University of Hawaii can afford to pay,” former UH Regent Jeff Portnoy said.
Portnoy used to chair the board’s intercollegiate athletics committee.
“I don’t see any way the university can have the resources to pay more than what they were paying Rolo, which was $600,000, which includes a bunch of bonuses. So the base compensation is $500,000,” he said.
The pay package made Rolovich one of the lowest-paid coaches in the Mountain West conference, despite competing in the Mountain West Conference championship game in 2019.
Then there’s attendance. Even with a 10-win season, the stadium was more than half-empty for all nine home games.
Despite the challenges, former UH and NFL wide receiver Greg Salas ― who’s now a sports marketer with Learfield IMG ― feels the opportunity to coach here is still very attractive.
“Marketing wise, I think it’s a great lure. It’s Hawaii. It’s a place that people love. It’s paradise,” he said. “If you have a great association here with the state, the culture and the people, then I think it’s a very tempting job.”
UH may look to promote from within first. But whoever gets the job will have to wait at least two seasons for a new stadium to replace the aging one in Halawa.
“The facility, I know, has turned off lots of people, because when I was on the Regents I heard about it all the time,” Portnoy said.
UH Foundation CEO Tim Dolan says the foundation is eager to partner with the athletic department to find creative ways to support the football program.
"We'd like to tap into the community's passion for football to help UH achieve success," he said.
Rolovich leaves after back-to-back winning years, something his successor can build on.
"I think the program's heading in the right direction. I think they're jumping into a winning situation," Salas said.
Portnoy believes the next coaching hire will have to check off a lot of boxes.
“One, I want to be here. Two, I understand the culture. Three, I know what’s going on at the high school level. And four, I can get a winning program and maybe someday move on,” he said.