Ben Jay, the senior associate athletics director for finance and operations at Ohio State University since 2006, has agreed to become the new athletics director at the University of Hawaii.
“It's a chance to realize a dream,” Jay told KITV4 from his home in Columbus. “I think any of us in the business always strive for one day being able to lead a top Division 1 program.”
Jay’s hiring, which has yet to be formalized, was announced Friday through a press release by UH M?noa Chancellor Tom Apple.
“I am delighted that Ben is joining us as UH Athletics Director, and know that he will be a great addition to our M?noa ‘ohana with his vision and strong finance, accounting and compliance background,” Apple said in the release.
Jay has yet to sign a contract, and his hiring must still be approved by UH President MRC Greenwood. However, Jay arrived at the M?noa campus on Monday, and had a face-to-face with Greenwood before flying back to Ohio Thursday night.
“She knows that I want the best for the program, and that I will do everything I can,” said Jay. “I love taking on challenges (and I’ve) always been very good at that.”
Jay expects to start his new job at M?noa in early January, and his first task will be to restore confidence to an athletics program that was rocked by the Stevie Wonder benefit concert fiasco. The university announced in July it had lost more than $200,000 to a bogus entertainment company with alleged ties to the superstar, and the ensuing dustup cost former athletics director Jim Donovan his job.
Jay said he’s been following news of the ordeal and wants to help the university, as well as UH sports fans, turn the page.
“We just want to restore trust in the program,” he said. “There are a lot of things I want to sit back and evaluate and look at. What kind of new ideas we can infuse, and see what we can do about bolstering attendance, especially over at Aloha Stadium.”
State Rep. Mark Takai, who’s also president of the UH Letterwinners Club, had called on Donovan to be reinstated as AD, but is excited about Jay’s hiring.
“If he can bring some of that magic from Ohio State to Hawaii, we're going to be very happy,” said Takai. “He's coming into a very difficult situation, but it's one that we all should take advantage of and move forward.”
According to Columbus Business First, Jay earned an annual base salary of $171,224 last year at Ohio State. However, the terms of his deal with UH have yet to be announced.
“That's still being worked on and I can't really disclose any of the details of it yet, but it's something we will work on with Chancellor Apple,” said Jay.
The University of Hawaii Board of Regents set a salary range for the new athletics director of $203,000 to $293,000. UH plays football in the Mountain West Conference where the average salary for an athletics director is $277,000.
Before his dismissal, Donovan had been earning $240,000 per year as athletics director. He was given a new public relations job under Apple’s office at $211,200 per year for the next three years.
“It would be a great package if (Jay’s) salary came in close to what he's getting now at Ohio State, but then add on tremendous incentives for performance,” said Takai. “We need to move in that direction if we're going to be doing some of the things that we aspire to do.”
Apple said Jay’s official start date, length of contract and salary would be made public once Greenwood approves his hiring.
Jay leaves behind an athletics program at Ohio State with an annual budget of more than $132 million, four times more than the $33 million budget at UH.
Despite the disparity in finances and prestige between the two schools, Jay is determined to make his tenure at UH a success.
“We will improve our operations, our program and give the support to the coaches and student-athletes the way they deserve,” said Jay. “We will make Rainbow Warrior fans proud (and) we will bring excitement.”
Jay is married to his wife Ling, who's also a native of Columbus, Ohio. The couple has three children, 10-year-old twins, a boy and a girl, and a 13-year-old daughter.