The best that money can buy

The University of Hawaii Board of Regents is officially considering local candidates for the position of president, succeeding M.R.C. Greenwood who stepped down in August.

We think that is a very good idea. The new president needs to have a keen sense of the problems plaguing the university ranging from seemingly out of control costs to the Wonder blunder to decaying facilities.

There is one other item we believe needs close scrutiny – the desire by many to spend a great deal of money to upgrade UH’s sports programs. The argument goes that in order to make money in college sports, you have to spend money.

And there is a great deal of money to be made if the Rainbow Warriors get into what Athletic Director Ben Jay refers to as a conference of the “haves” as opposed to one with the “have-nots.”

Honolulu Magazine quoted Jay thusly: “As conference realignment keeps going on, we have to be in one of those conferences with the haves, and not among the have-nots. Because, quite frankly, if we’re in the have-nots, we’re not going to financially survive.”

In our view this kind of talks begs the question: What is the purpose of college sports?

A long time ago, state universities had sports programs to give financially strapped but talented athletes a way to get an education. Those athletes were generally children of residents of the state. Athletic abilities were traded for scholarships. The games built school spirit.

It was a win-win situation.

Now we live in a world of megamillion television contracts with colleges fighting for a piece of the pie. Some coaches (led by Alabama’s Nick Saban) want to pay college athletes to compete. They argue an education is not sufficient pay.

The new president will need to have a conversation with the regents and the residents of the state. Do we want to spend the millions to compete for athletes across the nation against Alabama, Texas, et al?

Or do we want to use our scholarships to educate local kids – fielding teams that may not be the best in the nation, but are made up of friends and neighbors we can root for?

* Editorials reflect the opinion of the publisher.