In the fallout of University of Hawaii head football coach Nick Rolovich’s departure for Washington State Monday night, questions loom about the UH athletics department’s ability to field a competitive football program with their financial constraints.
Athletics Director David Matlin and company have admirably walked a tight rope of paying one of the lower salaries for coaching in the nation, with Rolovich making a disclosed $600,004 in 2019. The average Mountain West Conference head coach salary last season was $1,077,284.
Former UH regent Jeff Portnoy thinks that Rolovich’s departure should surprise no one, and is a sign of things to come.
“If anybody thinks that anybody’s taking the head football coach job and will be here for 10 years they’re deluded,” Portnoy said.
“Either they’ll get fired because they’re not doing what they need to do or they’ll put together a winning program and someone will poach them away because they have the resources to do that.”
When Rolovich was the offensive coordinator at UH in 2010, the school’s defensive coordinator was Dave Aranda. Now at national champion LSU, Aranda makes $2,800,000 as an assistant coach.
Portnoy says that despite the MWC signing a six-year $270 million contract with CBS and Fox for television rights, UH will never be in the same financial class as the sports Power 5 conferences.
“The Mountain West television contract, even with the Hawaii Spectrum contract, is minuscule,” Portnoy said.
“It’s 1/15 of the bigger schools, which are 25, 30, 40 million dollars in television rights. Their television revenue in conferences like the Southeastern Conference or Atlantic Coast Conference are more than Hawaii’s entire athletic budget. That’s just television.”
That puts UH back on the tight rope of finding a coach willing to take a discount. It’s something that former Athletics Director Hugh Yoshida said comes easier by looking within.
Well, when I was Athletics Director it was one when we looked at a coach we always looked internally first.” Yoshida said.
“Anybody on our staff that would be an individual that would fit the needs of our program we always look at that standpoint. From that point on we always looked local first and then national.”
According to Portnoy especially nationally a new coach will likely need a reason to want to agree to take less pay.
“You wind up with a coach either who is dying to get his first job as a Division 1 head coach in hope that it’s a stepping stone, and it was for people like (DIck) Tomey and June Jones and now Rolo, or you find someone who has some reason to want to coach in Hawaii.”