HONOLULU (KHON2) — There’s a new NCAA national football champion on Monday, Jan. 10, the Georgia Bulldogs.
Georgia defeated Alabama 33-18 Monday night. It was 14 years ago when the University of Hawaii played the Bulldogs on a big stage, but now Georgia has three times the athletic budget as UH. That monetary gap is only widening, and comes amid a scandal surrounding head coach Todd Graham.
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Allegations of verbal abuse and ignoring players mental health were levied on Graham during a state senate hearing Friday. Graham’s $800,000 salary is next to last in the Mountain West Conference.
Hawaii State Senator Donna Mercado Kim said if asked, the state would fund Graham’s $1.275 million buy out, or look at firing him for cause.
“If the claims made by the student athletes are legitimate claims that I think we have no option but to go ahead and buy on the contract for the health and safety of our students and for the program,” Sen Kim said.
Athletic Director David Matlin stood by Graham at the heated hearing on Friday.
The university declined to go into their budget on Friday, something Senator Kim wanted to see.
“We wanted to hear about the budget, the athletic budget, and they weren’t prepared,” Sen Kim said. “Which boggles my mind, because the hearing said budget and so if you want to save your program, or you think that we’re not funding your program enough, that was the time to come in and say look, this is where we need your help.”
Former UH regent Jeff Portnoy said the state is getting what it pays for with Graham, adding the state is the only entity that can fund a Division I football program.
“This is not a state where there are large amounts of fortune 500 companies willing to pour millions of dollars into the program. If the state is unwilling to recognize that University of Hawaii football is more of a state program than a university program, and fund it accordingly, it will with what’s going on around the country with name image and likeness, etc. eventually die.” Portnoy said.
Portnoy said that responsibility lies on the taxpayers of Hawaii.
“The public at one point cared, how many now care I don’t know,” Portnoy said. “But if the public cares then tell your legislators fund whatever is necessary to run a competitive, that’s the important word you can go 0-11 every year and make believe you’re playing Division I football, you want to run a competitve program i’m not talking about being in the top 20. I’m talking about winning more games than you lose. Then pay for it.”
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The UH Board of Regents are scheduled to meet on Jan. 20 to discuss the scandal. Senator Kim says the senate is holding a UH budget briefing later this week, but it’s not focused on athletics.