University of Hawaii Athletics Director Ben Jay met with the Board of Regents Monday afternoon to update them on the financial situation of the athletics department.
The situation is pretty bleak.
"There's a very real possibility of football going away," said Jay.
Not for a game. Not for a season. The entire UH football program could get cut. The team, the coaches and everyone else on board.
"It's a slim possibility, but it's something that you don't want to think about," said Jay.
But, now people are thinking about it. UH Manoa athletics has been a money loser 11 of the 13 past years.
This year is no different. We're just one month into it and the school is projecting a $1.5 million deficit that could blow up to $3 million depending on the football team's success.
"It cannot be self sufficient. It never has been," said Jeffrey Portnoy, the Board of Regents chair. "One of the two years we went to the Sugar Bowl and got $650,000. We're in a conference that's not going to play in big money bowl games. It has a terrible television contract. It's not likely to get significantly better."
Part of the problem -- UH hasn't been able to capitalize on promotions and sales at Aloha Stadium because those funds go to the state.
So, instead, it opened its own store -- the H Zone -- where all proceeds go back into the program. It was supposed to bring in $500,000, but it's not.
The H Zone is competing with the university bookstore -- UH vs. UH. And the bookstore money doesn't go to the football program.
"What we have right now is a bare bones operating budget that is limping along. Has hurt our competitiveness, hurt our ability to recruit and people want us to win," said Jay.
To do that, Jay says the program needs help by way of funding.
"And those funds to have to be found somewhere if the state and the community wants a Division I athletic program, including football," said Portnoy.
One more problem Jay brought up at the meeting is a future that could allow college players to get paid. That would come by way of tuition stipends.
If that happens, Jay said that'll cost the school an extra $800,000 to $900,000 per year.
As for this year, Jay wants UH officials to ask the state legislature for $3 million to help sustain its program.
Late Monday afternoon Jay released the following statement:
"My comments at the Committee on Intercollegiate Athletics' meeting were made in order to convey a sense of urgency regarding the need to address our current funding model. In no way was I indicating that a decision on program reduction of any sport was under consideration. Rather, I was suggesting that the department's financial situation required that all possible scenarios be reviewed. Hopefully, going forward, there will be a priority placed on discussing the future financial needs of the UH Athletics Department. President David Lassner has expressed his support and we'll call upon our many loyal stakeholders to help us ensure that we remain competitive within the future landscape of intercollegiate athletics. We owe that to our student-athletes and passionate fans."