(chawan_cut reporting in... I scribbled a bunch of notes on a sheet of paper, and this is my first ever "report" so alot of this might just turn out to be re-typing my notes, so bear with me. There was a pretty decent crowd, maybe ~60-70+ or so, although I didn't really look behind me to see who was there.)
Thank you to Rep. Mark Takai
and the other legislators who held the town hall meeting at Waimalu Elementary school this evening. Their special guests were Athletic Director Jim Donovan (JD)
and head coach Greg McMackin (GM)
. This was both JD's and GM's last public speaking event as they both will have to focus on the season ahead.
And coincidence? Waimalu's mascot is the Warrior
And two alumni of the school are current UH Warriors, Aaron Bain and Rocky Savaiigaea, both of which GM had nice things to say about.Coach Mack
came up first and thanked us all for coming out to support the program and the school. In his 40+ years of coaching, the 2 years here, in '99 and '07 was his most enjoyable. The people of Hawaii are like no other. He passed around his WAC championship ring. (lemme tell you, thats one BIG
ring. He said bling was for the players. What he liked was that it has Believe in bold on one side with the H helmet and the other side has his name and diamond head and a palm tree (or vice versa). GM said JJ promised him that he'd let him design the ring when they won the WAC championship, and he did. (and no, my hand is NOT
Anyways, he said in '99 it was a challenging year, both on and off the field, and now, just like then, the economy was also tough. This year, fuel costs continue to rise, making travel harder than it has ever been.
But he does BELIEVE
in his players (there's many seniors this year that have the experience of last season to grow from); his coaching staff (whom he gathered that all understand what coaching in Hawaii was all about); and his administrators (its 20x easier with JD at the helm).
GM has 3 goals
while he's coach.
1) Graduate EVERY
player. and this isn't because of APR. this is because its what's best for each student athlete in the long run. Aurite!
2) WAC champs EVERY
year! Aurite! Aurite!
3) Bowl game EVERY
year! Triple Aurite!
GM believes Hawaii has the greatest fans anywhere. From the amount of fans that showed up at the road games at San Jose, UNLV and of course the Sugar Bowl to even back in '99. The OT game against FSU for the WAC championship was the loudest stadium he'd ever been in, until this past year with the FSU, Boise St, and Washington games.
He and his players have taken to heart that after the end of the year last year they dropped from #7 to #17 in the polls, and as far as greater than #70 in the preseason polls this year. There's no talk of them being "Defending WAC champs" or anything. That might play into motivation this year I think.New Athletic Director Jim Donovan
then came up to discuss not only football, but the overall athletic department and his vision for it.
JD thanked Governor Burns for what we have today, a Division 1 program that we can be proud of. He believed that Hawai'i players could compete with anyone on the mainland. His ideas and beliefs laid the groundwork for Aloha Stadium, etc and allowed for UH to grow from it. He said we can't compare ourselves to our counterparts 2500 miles away. We're unique. We shouldn't feel like we're inferior to other teams, or anyone. We put on our pants the same as them.
JD mentioned that the WAC has been good to us since '78 and we've been good to the WAC. BUT that doesn't mean we shouldn't have the optimism to look elsewhere if its possible. For us to do that though we have be champions in every sport. JD said he talked to every coach and asked what was needed for them to succeed, and if they didn't have the resources, to let him know where they are lacking. *see further down as he brings this up again*
Last year, out of our 20 programs, we had 9 conference champions. 13 in the NCAA postseason, and 13 All-Americans.
He said running the business of an athletic department is difficult because its 2 main things, education and entertainment. Those 2 things contradict themselves however. In education, everything is supposed to be equal for the student. But in entertainment, its trying to be #1, to give the best value to the customer. JD also mentioned he's a strong believer in customer service. (where was that in the previous regime???)
JD also thanked the legislators present and the legislature in general for the support he's already received. They provided the extra funding in addendum to the donation by the Ching Foundation to help get Cooke field fixed.
When JD went to the legislature earlier this year, he was asked if he thought UH athletics was more important than the University. He said no. But he did compare UH athletics to a front porch. When UH athletics does well, it brings interest to the school, both nationally and internationally, as if a well kept, nicely decorated porch people would recognize and stop and want to come in to see the rest of the house. (enroll in UH, bring $$ to the school, etc). If UH athletics wasn't doing so well, it would be as if that same porch was dirty and in disrepair, and people wouldn't think twice about it as they passed it by.
JD then talked about how they're trying to make the program grow by continuing what JJ started. First off to keep the connection to Samoa alive. JJ took his SMU coaches and GM and some UH coaches this summer. They held clinics for both the players and coaches down there. They would like to keep that pipeline open as well as possibly get one going to Western Samoa, New Zealand and even Japan.
There's a huge market in Japan, as GM brought up an example as to look at how the Japanese media follow any Japanese player in any sport here in the US. The coverage is unbelievable. He doesn't want to just get a token player however, but someone that can play, maybe a slotback, WR, or kicker. Then that player can represent Japan and they can be proud of him and support him. He'd like Hawaii to be the Pacific Rim's team. If we can do that, it'll be a huge fan base and media share. This would definitely make us more viable and possible for another conference, say the PAC-10??
JD mentioned however that with rising fuel costs, their main focus is of course our teams and getting them to the mainland. Both of them said numerous times how prices have double and even tripled to the same destinations compared to last year. They will be flying commercial vice charter, but it cannot be helped. Its not only difficult for UH to fly there but for other teams to come here, so scheduling teams might soon be harder than it was previously (but not as bad as HF).
Both JD and GM stressed the importance of education, and how they want to impress on the kids at a young age to do well in school from as young as they can, because once they're juniors and seniors, its already too late. They also wanted to spread that word to Samoa as well (Samoa's main athletic director visited with GM this week).
JD went over his 6 main points
, but I was only able to catch a few of them.
1) make UH a destination of choice by players
2) make it an ohana environment
3) conference champions in as many sports as possible
4) ownership of the teams not only to them but the whole state.
JD did have a disclaimer and pre-apology of sorts. He said that with the budget the way it is and with efforts to raise funds, there are possibilities that it might not be pleasant for some of the public, but it has to be done. He said the last thing he wants to do is displease and alienate a Warrior fan, but there are times when it can't be helped and it is out of his control.
Ok, after that, there was a short Q&A session
with some of the public. Some very good questions were brought up and both tried to answer to the best of their ability.
1) Aloha Stadium's future & parking (JD responded with a quote from Stan Sheriff "Sometimes the questions that are asked are better than the answers you can give, and those are "Great questions"", and this was one of them.
- he realizes that Aloha Stadium has a limited lifespan, and something needs to be done, whether renovation or rebuild. it will soon become a safety issue with the steel.
- JD thought the location it is at now is the perfect spot, with both freeways passing it. also, when the rail gets done, a stop will be by the stadium, and he can see many park and rides happening on saturdays (like at many other pro parks in a city landscape)
- he said that it is really out of his control as the money is state money and its bigger than him.
- Rep Mark Takai pitched in saying that he believes something has to be done too. and he does not have the answer either whether to repair or start from scratch. He does believe however that UH should have control of its own stadium like every other college stadium out there. Rep Takai mentioned that they will try and learn from their visit to Florida to see how they and other big schools out there run things (YES! good idea!)
2) Question about JV and possibility of it being cut due to funding.
- Both JD & Gm responded with support for JV. They both expressed their thoughts of the negative aspects of not having it. GM was asked by HHSAA's Keith Amemiya to go to the legisture in support of JV, and GM is so in favor of it that he will sacrifice one practice later next month to help out.
3) Comment about Fight song and college tradition. one person brought a good point that he saw at the Sugar Bowl. When the Georgia band played their fight song, the whole Georgia fan base sang in unison. When UH played, our fans only clapped.
- JD saw this too, and he apologized for not knowing it either. GM and John McNamara are working with the UH band and cheerleaders to try to resolve this.
- GM said he's a college guy, JJ was more a pro style. GM knows that spirit of college football is in the songs, the cheerleaders, the students and the fans, and he wants to bring that atmosphere back to game days.
4) One lady was a proud UH alumnus, but had a hard time feeling that alumnus connection to UH at homecoming and at other events.
- JD responded with "thats another Great Question!!" heh. and it was. its hard to explain the apathy when it comes to alumni and UH. they're trying to resolve this too, starting with the letterwinners club and former players.
Ok, thank you for reading my book. Hope it wasn't too boring. I tried to remember as much as I could, but I haven't taken notes since I was in college, and back then I was dozing off in class at the same time. However tonight was very educational and entertaining (so JD and GM did a good job!) Hopefully that same enthusiasm from both their side at the athletic department and teams and our side as the public and fans will flow all season long.
Thank you again to Rep. Mark Takai and the other legislators for setting this up, as well as mucho mahalos to both Jim Donovan and Greg McMackin for their time to talk to the normal people like us. They truly are Hawaii's teams and they play for us and we are here to support them.