Finding a Way Forward for University of Hawaii Athletics

*cross posted with Kanu Hawaii*

The University of Hawaii is searching for a way to put it’s athletics program back in the financial black.  The school is also looking to get increased support from the student body for athletic events.  One simple yet controversial idea is being pushed by the UH-Athletics Department and UH Chancellor.  The athletic department would like to see a $50 student activity fee be added to every student enrolled at the University of Hawaii at Manoa for every semester.  The fee has been calculated to raise about $2 million every year for the school.  That money would go towards student-athlete scholarships, summer school and various athletic equipment.

Currently, Hawaii competes in the Western Athletic Conference(WAC) for most of it’s athletics teams.  Hawaii is the only school in the conference that does not have an athletics or activity in place.  Many of the schools in the conference charge a fee that is higher than the proposed $50 fee for Hawaii.  The money is a way of paying it forward in terms of student involvement in the schools’ athletic programs.  UH has already announced it’s intentions of increasing the amount of seating available to students at sporting events.  Many of the events would allot for a number of free tickets to be made available to students.  Imagine an additional 5,000 boisterous University of Hawaii students at every home football game.  Imagine a larger student presence at every basketball or volleyball match in the Stan Sheriff Center.  One needs only to look at any successful football, basketball, or volleyball college program to see the huge impact that is made when an arena or stadium is filled with highly caffeinated and disturbingly loud college students.

Free admission to UH sporting events would be available with the $50 student activites fee.

The University of Hawaii has long been trying to get it’s students to be more involved in the campus life.  The $50 fee would also go a long way in increasing the amounts of concerts and other activities that would take place on the campus.  Students are more likely to engage with their peers at these events than they are to ignore them completely.  The more popular the events are that will be held at the school, the more likely there is to be an increased affinity for the university by the alumni and community.  That affinity would lead to a stronger alumni donor presence and an increased community participation in the school’s activities.  Ultimately a successful and strong university needs a good foundation of involved alumni and community.

The current state of the athletic department is one of a constant struggle to put out successful programs while being tied to a tight budget.  Prior to the terrorist attacks of 9/11, the athletic department routinely returned a profit.  However, rising costs across the board and the changing athletic landscape has put a serious hamper on any effort to balance the budget.  The department has contemplated cutting different sports in an effort to help bridge the gap to economic recovery.  Going down this road of cutting a program would mean a loss of a cherished athletic program and also the loss of enrollment connected to the sport itself.  The department has already made difficult cuts in its travel budget and in the administration areas.  Many of the vacant positions have been cut and many offices have been combined or streamlined.  The department has also invested in finding smaller ways to save money like becoming a more green and energy efficient department.

The University of Hawaii makes about $400,000 annually from parking generated by sporting events yet the athletics department receives none of that money.

Ultimately the increased $50 fee that will be added to students will allow the University of Hawaii to lessen the amount of appropriation in its budget for the athletic department.  $2 million would be essentially freed up from its current use and could be spent on facility upgrades and expanding educational programs.  The money would also likely increased the effectiveness of the athletic programs of the university and would exponentially increase the exposure of the school.  After all, sometimes its a lot more helpful to see a thirty second segment on Hawaii football on a national sports program than it is to read about a science award being given to the school.  The University of Hawaii needs a successful athletics program and one step in that direction is this simple $50 fee.

Get Informed and Get Involved!

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