Another year in UH athletics is fast-approaching as fall sports teams begin preparations for the upcoming season within the next month. David Matlin has overseen the University of Hawaii athletic department for just over two years now, and in that time much has changed.
"I think we're trending in the right direction, but there's more work to do," Matlin said.
The work never stops for the UH athletics director. Since taking the job in 2015, he's had to fire and hire a football coach, find a men's basketball coach in the midst of an NCAA investigation, and replace one of the most iconic coaches in all of volleyball. But the waters surrounding the UH athletic programs are a lot calmer now.
“I think a lot of that has to do with coaching," said Matlin. "You have Laura Beeman and women’s basketball has done a phenomenal job. Eran’s done a great job. Last year’s season was a very good season when you consider all the NCAA issues we had to deal with. Volleyball, Charlie Wade and Dave Shoji obviously. Amazing legacy that he’s left here, but we’re very excited about Robyn. Like I mentioned Charlie before, going to the final four is pretty awesome. And baseball is on the uptick and they had a good season. I do think there is a little more stability and I think a lot of it is good coaches and they’re getting good student athletes.”
With a solid coaching foundation in place, finances are the focus. The athletic department operated at a 4.2 million dollar deficit in 2015. That number was cut to 3.2 million last year and now UH estimates this year will be two million in the red. Trending in the right direction now, but projections have the deficit once again rising over the next three years due to an increase in costs.
"We're doing things to change that dynamic. We're focusing on fundraising. Once we finish the all apparel deal and the multi-media partnership, those are things that are helping. You do four or five things at $100,000 here, $400,000 there, $500,000 here, it adds up."
A big help has been the resurgence by the UH football team in the first season under Nick Rolovich. A quick turnaround that even surprised Matlin a bit.
"I actually think it's ahead of schedule. I think him and his staff and his players did an outstanding job."
With success comes the possibility of other schools trying to lure away coaches. Rolovich and Ganot are under contract for the next few years, but the financial disadvantage UH is at always looms as a reality.
“We do have some limitations and what we pay and we all know the cost of living in Hawaii is a challenge. We can think about what we don’t have, but there’s so much we do have. We have a vibrant community that supports this institution, we have a great university, our facilities are continuing to get better. We do have to think of creative ways to compensate that might not come out of the department’s money. We do a lot of goal-aligned contracts where there’s win-win scenarios in them as far as supplemental compensation. That has to be more of our reality. It’s not easy, but I think it’s doable."
Needless to say fundraising is critical, and with those funds having decreased by nearly a million dollars over a three-year period, Matlin and the department are reorganizing the way the booster organization Ahahui Koa Anuenue operates.
“The one thing I know is we can’t keep doing things the same way. I know if we keep doing things the same way, we won’t get better. I’m always going to be with if we do our research and try something and if it doesn’t work out then that’s okay, but most of the time if you do the work it’s an opportunity to get better.”
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