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Briefing to focus on allegations of toxic environment in UH football program

A powerful state senator says she has serious questions about possible mistreatment of student-athletes in the University of Hawaii football program.
Published: Jan. 5, 2022 at 5:15 PM HST|Updated: Jan. 7, 2022 at 7:41 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Although it’s not the usual fodder for lawmakers, a powerful state senator says she has serious questions about possible mistreatment of student-athletes in the University of Hawaii football program.

The athletics budget and issues related to the football team are on the docket for a Friday briefing at the state Capitol.

However, the significant topic is asking about players transferring and allegations of a toxic environment created by head coach Todd Graham.

Senate Higher Education Committee chair Donna Mercado Kim says she typically wouldn’t step in but called for the briefing after receiving a flood of complaints over the last several months.

“I’ve heard from very credible people,” Kim explained.

“It’s not just rumor mill ― credible people, coaches, former coaches, former athletes, former football players, administrative people within the university that are concerned. I’m not there, so the only way I get information is when people contact me and call me.”

UH officials confirmed Wednesday they have received the senator’s invitation to the briefing and university representatives will be present to answer questions.

It’s not yet known which UH representatives will be present, but Kim hopes to hear from key leadership.

“We are holding them accountable,” Kim explained.

“We want to know what is it that they’re doing? What is it that they plan to do? What’s the plan of action? How are they going to resolve this? Are they even taking this seriously? Aside from the budget itself, those are some of the issues and so I’m hoping, we’re gonna shed light on some of this stuff.”

Athletics Director David Matlin was not available for an on-camera interview Wednesday, but university officials cited his remarks from a statement last month.

“We can’t ignore that there are areas that we need to improve on. Coach Graham and I are in constant contact and are always looking for ways to make the program better,” he said.

“To all of our supporters and future, current, and past Rainbow Warriors, keep the faith because we’re working tirelessly to maintain a program that you can be proud of.”

Public testimony is now being accepted for the Friday afternoon briefing. View it online here.

It begins at 2:30 p.m. and can be viewed online.

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