The University of Hawaii at Manoa Athletic Department has no plan in place to pay back the more than $10 million it has borrowed from school funds since 2002.
Nor does the university chancellor expect it to be paid back “right now or even in the immediate future.”
“We can’t provide a timeline at this point,” Gregg Takayama, spokesman for the chancellor, said Wednesday. “There is no crystal ball as to the future finances of the athletic department. They could win the nation championship and gain a financial windfall but, you know, it’s not something that we’re banking on at this point.”
In June, UH Associate Athletic Director for Administrative Services Carl Clapp told Civil Beat, “Athletics has borrowed against the pooled cash (of the university) and athletics is charged interest on the amount borrowed.” That article pointed out that the money could have been used for academics at a time when the university says it is strapped for cash.
But Takayama said Wednesday that there is no strategy or timeline for the athletic department to pay the money back. In fact, Takayama couldn’t say for certain if athletics would have to repay anything at all.
“It’s an open understanding,” is the way he described the financial arrangement.
The comments came as the UH Board of Regents prepared to vote Thursday on whether to charge students a $50 athletic fee each semester. Both the Graduate Student Organization (GSO) and the Associated Students of the University of Hawaii (ASUH) are voicing frustration over why they should have to carry the financial burden of the athletic department.
Coverage of this issue started Tuesday when Civil Beat interviewed Takayama, director of Community and Government Relations at UH Manoa, about how the deficit would be made up.
If approved, the $50 fee would help put the department’s operating budget in the black. But it wouldn’t make a dent on the $10 million the department already owes.
“I’m not sure if I can definitively say yes that it will be paid back,” Takayama told Civil Beat. “I would have to check with the chancellor.”
Asked if there were a plan to pay the money back, he said: “I guess the short answer is, not at this time.”
An interview followed with Clapp, the associate athletic director, who referred Civil Beat back to the chancellor.
“I think he gave you a pretty good quote on that right now, there is not a strategy or a plan,” Clapp said of Takayama.
In a subsequent call to Takayama, he was asked: “Can you tell me that that money will be paid back?”
Takayama replied: “I’m not sure how to answer that. I’m not sure if I can definitively say, yes, that it will be paid back.”
Asked whether the university could say that it would expect the athletic department to pay back the money, he said: “I can’t say that. No. I would have to check with the chancellor.”
So Civil Beat asked him to check with the chancellor.
Takayama called back after he spoke with Chancellor Virginia Hinshaw.
“We do hope we – we meaning UH Manoa – hopes that athletics department will eventually have the means to pay back the long-term debt. We don’t expect that it will be paid back right now or even in the immediate future. And it’s actually not tied to this athletic fee because the hope of the athletic fee is that it will provide a means of helping athletics, strengthen its financial stability. And so in that sense, if it does help athletics strengthen financially, in that sense it might help them find the means to pay back the debt. So. We’re not writing it off. We do want athletics to pay it back when it finds the financial means to do so.”
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