HONOLULU (KHON2) — Sen. Donovan Dela Cruz, the Chair of Senate Committee on Ways and Means, once again called for an independent investigation into the University of Hawaii Athletics Department. 

“If we don’t have a successful football program, that really compromises the rest of the athletic programs within the university,” Sen. Dela Cruz said. “So, I’m very hopeful that the regents are going to take this seriously, do an independent investigation, see what facts that they’re presented and deal with the situation.”

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The university continued to deal with the controversy that involved now-former head football coach Todd Graham, who resigned Friday, Jan. 14, amid player accusations of verbal abuse and a lack of cultural awareness, among other things.

Now, Sen. Dela Cruz wants to know the university’s plan to rebound.

“We need to find out what’s the vision for the program, and how do we achieve that vision? What is it going to take and it just can’t be state dollars. We have to get buy-in from the community, we have to get buy-in from students. We have to get buy-in from businesses so that we can fully fund what they’re trying to accomplish.”

Donovan Dela Cruz, hawaii senator

UH football raises money to help fund other UH sports as well. Former university regent Jeff Portnoy said the only entity that can fund the program moving forward is the state itself. He also argued the Senate should not be so involved.

“I think we have now fed the beast. The legislature will now take credit for the football coach resigning, and I don’t think there could be anything more dangerous to the future of any athletics program at the university than a perspective coach knowing that he doesn’t just have to answer to the athletics director. But someday, he may have to answer to Donna Kim and other members of the committee.”

Jeff Pornoy, Former University of Hawaii regent

But Sen. Dela Cruz argued that it gave athletes and others a chance to voice their concerns in a public forum. 

“I hear what the President is saying, but hopefully he can see that all those who testified are fearful of getting — kind of — getting pushed back from all those within the system,” Sen. Dela Cruz said. 

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The UH Board of Regents is scheduled to meet Thursday morning on Jan. 20 to discuss the athletics department. UH said that regents can’t announce any actions until they meet to discuss them.