The end of UH football? Jay says revenue shortage could lead to program reduction

Published: Aug. 18, 2014 at 7:35 PM HST|Updated: Aug. 19, 2014 at 12:24 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - University of Hawaii athletics director Ben Jay says he needs another $3 million to keep the sports programs going and without a better financial plan the school may have to resort to cutting programs, including the Rainbow Warrior football team.

Program reduction is a topic Jay has touched upon before, but for the first time, he expressed those concerns to the University's Board of Regents on Monday at a meeting with the Committee on Intercollegiate athletics.

"We have to make a stand at some point," Jay said in an interview with Hawaii News Now. "Are we going to pay for this program or not? How important? And I put this out to the state of Hawaii, how important is UH football to the state? And we'll find out."

For more than a decade, the athletics department has been running a deficit.

UH ended the last fiscal year with a $2 million shortfall with total spending of more than $30 million.

Jay expects the operating budget for 2014 to be around $32 million, but he's asked the board of regents for $3 million more.

The AD says the school's current financial structure is not a sustainable model and cutting sports is the last resort, but a very real possibility.

"We've cut to the bone," Jay said. "Where else can we go? I'm looking for solutions to get us out of this hole. This is a program that has run a deficit 11 out of the last 13 years. Somebody has to do something because we can't keep operating this way."

Rainbow Warriors linebacker Julian Gener said that the loss of football at UH would be heartbreaking.

"It would be a big, a big stumble for not just the school, but the whole islands," Gener said. "This is like the professional football here. We're like the professional athletes, so to lose that I think that would take away a lot of the heart and soul out of Hawaii and the tradition of Hawaii."

One big reason for the revenue shortfall is low season ticket sales.

According to Jay, as of Monday afternoon, roughly 16,000 have been sold,

That's 8,000-9,000 fewer than in 2007 when Hawaii went undefeated and earned a BCS berth.

Currently, ticket packages range between $75 to $145 for adults and the school also offers a mini pack where fans can choose a combo of home games.

Jay expects the revenue for this current fiscal year to be $29 million.

Jay also released this statement Monday evening further expressing the need for the school to address its current financial status:

“My comments at the Committee on Intercollegiate Athletics’ meeting were made in order to convey a sense of urgency regarding the need to address our current funding model. In no way was I indicating that a decision on program reduction of any sport was under consideration. Rather, I was suggesting that the department’s financial situation required that all possible scenarios be reviewed. Hopefully, going forward, there will be a priority placed on discussing the future financial needs of the UH Athletics Department. President David Lassner has expressed his support and we’ll call upon our many loyal stakeholders to help us ensure that we remain competitive within the future landscape of intercollegiate athletics. We owe that to our student-athletes and passionate fans.”   

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