HONOLULU (KHON2) — University of Hawaii (UH) officials are in the hot seat as lawmakers look for answers to why so many football players are leaving the program. Lawmakers said the problems go beyond football as other student-athletes have also raised complaints about being mistreated.

More than a dozen UH football players have announced that they are leaving UH by entering the transfer portal. Many are the team’s best players, including starting quarterback Chevan Cordeiro.

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Among those who testified at a hearing on Friday, Jan. 7, was former player Leonard Lee.

“It was hard to wake up and go to practice and do something you love with a guy like that in charge. The only way to describe him really is a tyrant.”

LEONARD LEE, former UH Football player, said of head coach todd graham

Lee was eventually kicked off of the football team, and he added that complaints about the coaches were already brought up during a survey months ago before the football season even started.

“I know David Matlin was informed about these issues, and it seems it was just a slap on the wrist because Todd Graham didn’t change his behavior. He didn’t change the way he talked to us, the way he treated us,” Lee continued.

“Coach Graham truly has stripped the love and joy out of a lot of people for the sport. As you can see, the transfer portal is blowing up,” stated former football player Derek Thomas.

Senate Higher Education Committee Chair Donna Mercado Kim said she felt compelled to hold a hearing on the issue after getting so many phone calls and emails from student-athletes and parents, and it is not just from the football team.

“We’re not just hearing from football players, we’re hearing from women’s basketball, men’s basketball, there’s a lot of issues. We’re hearing from parents as well,” Kim explained.

UH Head Football Coach Todd Graham denied the accusations of him being abusive.

“No one has been verbally abused. I’ve actually came in and tried to clean up some of the language. Things obviously were not perfect and don’t claim to be,” said Graham.

He and UH athletics director David Matlin said there are more players who see it differently.

“There is more to the story, there’s more testimony out, there’s more people that see another side of this. This is only one side of the story,” Matlin said.

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“Those things have not happened. We have obviously been demanding and worked with our kids and coached them hard, but we love them hard as well,” Graham continued.