The Star-Advertiser’s top story on Friday reported on UH athletic director Ben Jay announcement of a broad fundraising plan designed to “address the urgency of a program in decline.”
I didn’t see anyone follow up on this implicit assessment that UH athletics is “a program in decline.”
There was a lot of talk about fundraising goals, little on just what is being proposed to get there.
• Increase the annual athletic budget from $32 million to $40 million within five years, a 25 percent increase (if we’re lucky, that would keep the budget just ahead of inflation).
• A $60 million fundraising campaign.
• According to the Star-Advertiser: “Raise $700,000 in new revenues from donations and entrepreneurial activities.”
So many questions.
There are questions about the fundraising plan itself.
Was it reviewed by the Board of Regents before being publicly announced in an athletic department news conference? If not, why not?
What is its impact on overall fundraising for the university? Other program budgets have been squeezed to make up for past athletic deficits. To what extent does this plan set up a new competition for fundraising from external sources? Does it pit teaching and research against athletics? Is it meant to pressure legislators to shift additional money from academics to athletics?
Over what time period does Jay propose raising that $60 million? And what’s included in that total? Does the $60 million refer to “new money” or does it include the average of $6.2 million already raised annually by the department?
It appears that just under $1 of every $10 raised in donations by the UH Foundation already goes to athletics (Athletics reported average annual donations of $6.2 million, while the foundation recently reported raising $66.3 million in its most recent fiscal year. If Jay’s plan moves forward, is that percentage supposed to increase? By how much?
Another aspect here is governance. One of the lessons of the Steve Wonder fiasco was that the UH Manoa campus is supposed to be fully in charge of and responsible for athletics, and problems arose in part because athletics ran outside of normal channels. What are the “normal channels” for Ben Jay’s “audacious” and “aggressive” fundraising plan? Was the fundraising plan reviewed by the Athletics Advisory Board, or the Manoa Faculty Senate’s Committee on Athletics? If so, what were their comments?
It’s hard to tell at this point whether this is mostly smoke and mirrors, bluff and bluster, or whether there’s real substance and a realistic chance of success.
I guess we wait and watch.