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Regents take UH sports debt off ledger

Published On: May 17 2013 07:24:00 AM HST
Updated On: May 16 2013 08:54:00 PM HST

Running below empty, that's how UH sports has operated for more than a decade now until UH Board of Regents met.

Manoa, Hawaii -

The University of Hawaii Athletics Department has been given a clean slate after the Board of Regents voted Thursday to move $13 million in accumulated debt to the Manoa chancellor's office.

UH Athletics Director Ben Jay praised the move, saying it would allow sports teams to chart a new course of financial solvency.

"With some of the shifting of funds, and the way some of this is accounted for, it certainly helps our bottom line," said Jay.

Regents also voted to allow the Manoa chancellor's office to fund some staff positions within the Athletics Department, and granted in-state tuition to 2 percent of the student body, which translates into about 220 athletes at the Manoa campus. In addition, regents will convene a committee to help assist Jay in managing the budget for sports teams.

Manoa Chancellor Tom Apple said there's a three-year plan to bring the university's athletics program into the black by finding new revenue sources and possibly reworking contracts. Apple said the success of the initiative could determine whether UH continues to compete as a Division-1 school.

"The idea was that we support athletics here, get it in the black, and have a three-year runway during which time we try to become more competitive by establishing more revenue streams," said Apple. "Let's think positive," added Apple. "I think both myself and certainly Athletics Director Jay, we've been quite clear we're hoping that we'll eventually get into a major conference.

Currently, the University of Hawaii football team pays Aloha Stadium $90,000 per game, but makes no revenue from concessions. The only revenue afforded to UH at the stadium is the form of 2,200 parking stalls that are auctioned off through booster clubs. Whether those contracts can be reworked in future years remains to be seen.

"They're operating in good faith, but as we think about the future, we need to have these conversations and see if maybe there's a better way forward," Apple said of existing sports contracts.

Meanwhile, Jay hopes to take control of proceeds from the sale of UH Athletics merchandise, which currently goes to individual campuses. In fiscal year 2012, the sale of such merchandise generated $2.28 million. A proposal is currently before UH President MRC Greenwood's that would allow Jay to dedicate those funds toward athletics.

"A lot of things that get sold in stores around town that people buy, that merchandise, they want to be supporting UH athletics," said Jay. "I want to be able to get the revenues from that."

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