Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Ben Jay resigns as U.H. athletic director

[1/25/15] The last time the University of Hawaii hired an athletic director, the search advisory committee culled two finalists to present to then-Manoa Chancellor Tom Apple.

"After the two (Ben Jay and Solomon "Solly" Fulp), we saw a definite drop-off in quality," said a member of that 2012 committee.

Less than two and a half years later, as the process to select Jay's successor proceeds, the question many have is: What quality of applicants can UH attract now?

The search that led to Jay's hiring came amid the fallout over the "Wonder Blunder," a particularly tumultuous and politically charged chapter that no doubt scared off some potential candidates.

These days Jay's departure highlights the financial crisis confronting UH, something that has not escaped notice around the rest of the country either.

Two days after Jay resigned, Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith, Jay's former boss and mentor, told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, "I just know that if (Hawaii) is not the toughest job in college sports it is awfully close."

At the IMG Athletic Forum in New York, where Smith was among 100 collegiate athletic administrators, a panel discussion about the future of mid-major schools included references to UH's unique geographical challenges.

The combination of geography, finances, an under-performing football program and an NCAA investigation suggest "Gene Smith might be right," said Sun Belt Conference Commissioner Karl Benson, who has retained a UH affinity and familiarity from his WAC days. "Of the soon-to-be 129 Football Bowl Subdivision schools, I wouldn't argue that the Hawaii job might be perceived in the bottom five right now by a lot of people," Benson said.

[12/9/14] UH athletic director Ben Jay announced his resignation Tuesday at a press conference at the Wong Hospitality room in the Stan Sheriff Center, citing "personal reasons." Jay will remain as athletic director through June 30, 2015 while the school conducts a search for his replacement.

"It's very hard for me to step away from this but I do so knowing I'm doing what's best for myself and for my family and for family reasons I've chosen to resign," Jay said.

Prior to addressing his future, Jay affirmed that Norm Chow will return for his fourth season as Rainbow Warrior football coach.

"I made the decision to make a recommendation to (UH Manoa chancellor Robert Bley-Vroman) and the chancellor supported that decision that Norm Chow will be coaching the 2015 season for the Rainbow Warriors," Jay said.

"One of the things I took from our conversation is that we definitely needed to improve in some areas but there was sufficient progress being made," Jay said.

Bley-Vroman said he plans to announce the search process by January and the target is to select a new athletic director by the end of June "so we can have a smooth transition."

In the meantime, Jay will "continue to serve as athletic director and will continue to have the responsibilities of athletic director," Bley-Vroman said.

Jay's contract runs through January 2016. When Bley-Vroman was asked if Jay's departure was performance related, the chancellor reiterated that Jay was leaving for family reasons.

"Ben is resigning for personal reasons, he's not being forced out," Bley-Vroman said.

Jay's resignation comes as the athletic department braces for the arrival of a letter of allegations following an NCAA investigation into the UH men's basketball program along with continued budget challenges, linked in large part to the struggles of the football program.

The NCAA initiated the investigation in the basketball program in March. Bley-Vroman and Jay fired head coach Gib Arnold and assistant Brandyn Akana on Oct. 28.

With football ticket sales lagging, Jay told a UH Board of Regents Intercollegiate Athletics Committee last month that the department projected a $3.52 million deficit for the current fiscal year.

The UH football team went 4-9 this season, pushing Chow's three-year record to 8-29. He has two years remaining on a contract that pays $550,000 annually.

"We have a ways to go, 4-9 is not successful but it is improvement," Jay said. "It is improvement from where we came from."

According to his contract, Chow is guaranteed at least $750,000 of the remaining $1.1 million owed. The contract also includes a clause that he can be bought out of the fifth-year for $200,000.

***

In the first years of the 21st century, the position of University of Hawaii athletic director was considered one of relative stability. But as Ben Jay's resignation from the post underscored on Tuesday, the AD position in recent years has come under fire and has been a revolving door of administrators.

Sometime in 2015, UH will have its fourth athletic director in eight years.

Recent challenges of helming the wayward department include rapidly increasing debt and decreasing attendance; political pressure from both the Capitol and upper campus; a shifting balance of power across the national landscape; travel subsidies to the Mountain West and Big West conferences; and new financial burden for student-athlete meals as well as the possibility of future stipends.

Bottom line: It's not an easy job.

Here's a look at UH's five most recent athletic directors:

***

[12/9/14] The coaches don't know who is really making the decisions either.

[12/11/14] Reardon for Blangiardi and Amemiya

[12/12/14] NEW YORK » If Ben Jay had known the depth of the task confronting him at the University of Hawaii, he said Thursday, he might not have taken the job as its athletic director.

Jay, who announced his resignation Tuesday, two years after accepting the job, said, "I thought I knew what I knew, but it wasn't until I really got there and went through some of it that I got more of an idea of some of the underlying issues about why we are in the position we're in."

Jay said, "Honestly, if I knew more I may not have taken it."

Jay cited mounting frustration with fundraising at UH; the firing of his boss, Tom Apple, as Manoa chancellor; and the toll speculation about his job status was taking on his family for the decision to resign.

Jay's first extensive comments since the resignation came while he was attending the IMG Intercollegiate Athletics Forum in New York City with more than 100 fellow ADs and athletic administrators. Jay, in a suit and tie, was a panelist on issues confronting non-Power Five conference schools, an appearance scheduled before his announced departure.

Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith, Jay's former boss and mentor, who was in attendance, said, "I just know that if (Hawaii) is not the toughest job in college sports it is awfully close."

"Especially for those of us who come from big programs, you figure there is a certain minimum amount of support and infrastructure," Jay said. "But as I got into it from a business perspective, you realize that even some of the minimal stuff is just not there. All the things that we have at the tip of our (fingers) at other places, we didn't have here so you have to build it. Which is what we were trying to do here."

Following Jay's appearance at the IMG Forum Thursday, several peers and past colleagues caught up with him, offering hugs and pats on the shoulder to express condolences and support over his decision to resign from UH.

Smith, of Ohio State, said, "Hawaii has got some problems, so to expect that you are going to hire somebody and they are going to walk in and all of a sudden your $3 million deficit is going to go away when, frankly, you have some systemic problems in your model, well, that's just not going to happen.

[12/13/14] Ben Jay can be nice. He can be well-meaning. He can have good intentions.

But he can’t be the UH AD.

Not today. Not for the next six months. Not ever again.

When he opened his feelings about the UH athletic department that he oversees, he opened the door to his exit.

His comments in today’s Star-Advertiser were not about honesty or honor. They did not read like explanations on his inability to get the job done; they read like excuses.

[No not Dave Reardon, Stephen Tsai]

[12/13/14, OK, here's Reardon]

People are in a panic because they think the athletic director who was pushed into resigning and dares to say publicly how hard a job it is is staying at the University of Hawaii until June.

Some crazy things happen at UH, but I seriously doubt that will. Ben Jay is outta here as quickly as he can find another job.

Now, some of you are blind in your contempt for this guy and/or think he’s so incompetent that he won’t find new employment anywhere. But just because he couldn’t do a job that appears to be close to impossible doesn’t mean he can’t succeed elsewhere. He has lots of friends elsewhere and has succeeded at many other jobs. He might not be an athletic director of a Division I program again, but he will find something, probably by March at the latest if I were to guess.

Jay is working on a paper that he will leave with the next AD and others who will be tasked with trying to pull the department out of the financial abyss it has fallen into the past decade or more.

As for his candidness in today’s interview with Ferd Lewis, Jay once again said things people don’t want to hear. I find the candidness refreshing; I’d rather hear truth than more helpings of the incredible amount of BS that comes out of UH. But apparently a lot of folks can’t handle the truth.

[1/28/15] Bob Hogue on Keith Amemiya

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