On Wednesday, the University of Hawaii at Manoa officially opened the application period for its next athletics director, marking the most substantial step in the process since current AD David Matlin announced his retirement from the position on Jan. 4.
With Matlin’s tenure set to end on June 2, it wasn’t until Wednesday’s announcement that a seven-member search committee was unveiled.
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Applications are available online, with UH calling March 10 as the final day to submit for “best consideration.”
The job of UH-Manoa athletics director has its desirable characteristics but also comes with distinct challenges, according to former AD Ben Jay.
“I think when I came there, obviously I had a lot to learn. I had to learn, basically, what makes the island tick, the culture, the people, what they are very concerned about and things and that was, you know, I had to learn very quickly. I think whoever is the next candidate has got to understand the island, how it works, how the people think. You have to honor the culture,” Jay told KHON2.
“You do have to know that as administrator, you gotta know that going in and understand that very quickly and that way, I think it goes a little smoother but when you’re fighting for resources, obviously it’s not an easy place when you’re 2,500 miles away from the mainland. And that travel is brutal on the kids, so you have to do whatever you can to help them.”
Prior to his time at Hawaii, Jay was the associate athletic director for finance and operations at Ohio State. His tenure at Manoa lasted for two and a half years before he resigned, leading to a search that led to Matlin, the former executive director of the Hawaii Bowl.
“I know David, I would converse from time to time and check in on him. We’ve been friends ever since I was there and he was with the Hawaii Bowl and things. I knew that David made a great candidate for the job,” Jay said. “And he’s proven it, but he’s been a great candidate because you know, what does it take to be there, what do you have to know, what kind of experience do you need, David came with that. He knew college football, he knows NCAA rules and regulations, he understands television. And you have to understand how television (deals work), especially when you’re trying to negotiate out there on the islands for television coverage.”
As Matlin put in his retirement press conference back in early January, he hopes his successor will have “a heart for this place.”
When asked if he has interest in the vacant position, Keith Amemiya, the runner-up to Matlin for the job in 2015, offered a “no comment” to KHON2 on Thursday.
Additionally, former UH-Manoa associate athletics director John McNamara told Brian McInnis of Spectrum News that he would not pursue the position.
Meanwhile, current UHM associate athletics director for internal operations and senior woman administrator Lois Manin has confirmed her interest in the vacancy.
“I am interested because I have great love for UH Athletics,” Manin told KHON2. “But right now I am focused on working with David to prepare for the transition no matter who the next leader will be.”
Since leaving UH, Jay has served as the chief financial officer and chief of staff for the Big West Conference. Last October, he was named the executive director of the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority, which oversees U.S. Bank Stadium, home of the Minnesota Vikings. He certainly understands that finding Hawaii’s football team a permanent stadium will be one of the most pressing issues for the school’s next AD.
“I was always concerned that I think the only way you end up getting a new stadium or at least a decent one for the people of Hawaii is the fact that it has to be combined in a public-private partnership,” Jay said. “I think having a private developer come in to help you build this stadium and then build a district around it, business district, entertainment district, housing around is the way that what’s gonna interest a developer into helping you pay for that stadium. I think the $350 million that the legislature has set aside for it as a standalone is not enough, it won’t even come close.
“I mean, when it comes right down to it, it’s either that or else you’re not gonna have a stadium that is 30 to 35,000 seats. It’s gonna be probably significantly less with the cost of how much it is. And so then and the longer you take inflation, cost of materials and things are just gonna keep adding to the total price tag. I fear that if movement doesn’t happen with NASED and the stadium built, it’s gonna be some time before things get started and off the ground.”
Jay credited Matlin for spearheading UH’s efforts to expand the Clarence T.C. Ching Athletics Complex, which has given the Rainbow Warriors a place on Oahu to host games.
“But you got to have hope that this new stadium and the whole business entertainment district happens sooner than later because they need a home, they need a place to play,” Jay says. “And I think that’s what I hope for the next athletic director who’s gonna be able to have to take that problem on.”
Even being just months removed from college athletics, Jay understands the landscape of it has changed immensely and will continue to do so.
“It even started while I was (at UH-Manoa). When they started making unlimited meals and things like that and with your resource challenges. … Where am I gonna get the money to pay for this? That first year of unlimited meals, you were talking $450,000 that we didn’t have, it wasn’t budgeted,” Jay recalled. “So, you got to fundraise for it and figure out how you’re gonna pay for it in order to feed the kids.
“You got to take a look at the funding of the program. Where can you get help? I know in the last couple of years they were able to get some funding from from state government and the legislature and things, but when it comes right down to it, the university has to support the program and that’s gonna have to come with more financial support and things, or else you end up falling behind and in your competitiveness and your attractiveness in terms of having the kids come there to the islands.”