University of Hawaii Chancellor Robert Bley-Vroman has announced the formation of an eight-person search advisory committee to find a new athletic director, who will be tasked with turning around a department that’s expected to end this year $3.5 million in the hole.

Current Athletic Director Ben Jay said last month that he plans to resign for “personal and professional reasons.”

Top Hawaii business executives and doctors will steer the committee along with UH faculty members. Warren Haruki, president and CEO of Grove Farm Co. and chairman and CEO of Maui Land and Pineapple Co., will chair the committee, the university said Tuesday.

Robert Bley-Vroman, Chancellor, University of Hawaii at Manoa speaks to media after University of Hawaii Athletic Director Ben Jay announced he is resigning from his position as athletic director.  Stan Sheriff Center. Honolulu, Hawaii.  9 dec 2014. photograph Cory Lum

Robert Bley-Vroman, right, chancellor at University of Hawaii at Manoa, speaks to media after UH Athletics Director Ben Jay announced his resignation, Dec. 9, 2014. A search committee has been formed to find a replacement by mid-year.

Cory Lum/Civil Beat

“We are looking for a leader capable of excelling in multiple areas including community outreach and partnership building, with the dual goals of continuing academic achievement of our student-athletes while putting UH’s 21 teams in the best possible position to win,” Bley-Vroman said. “We also need someone with the ability and agility to lead UH during this complex and important time in the evolving national collegiate athletics landscape.”

Jay appeared last month before a panel of state lawmakers as university officials made their case for more taxpayer-funded budget support.

They said athletics is important to Hawaii as a community, not just to the university and students. And as such, they said it’s reasonable to ask taxpayers to help shore up deficits while the department works to become self-sustaining.

But to be clear, school officials didn’t ask lawmakers to cover the department’s deficit. They asked for $3.7 million to pay for gender equity costs and conference-mandated travel subsidies.

When Jay took over the $30 million program in 2013, the university absorbed the department’s $13 million debt at the time so as to help him get off on the right foot. His base salary was $293,000, plus bonuses and benefits.

There are many things Jay has left for his successor to consider, from conference travel expenses to attendance at football games.

Jay said UH is the only institution in the country that has to pay travel fees to members of its own conference.

The Mountain West and Big West conferences forced UH to pay $1.3 million and $650,000, respectively, as part of the deal for UH to join. School officials accepted it because they were desperate to get out of the Western Athletic Conference.

Jay said paid attendance needs to rise to 26,000 to 29,000 people per football game to be sustainable. It’s currently averaging around 22,000.

He was also critical early on of UH’s arrangement with the Aloha Stadium Authority, which keeps all the money from concessions but bills UH to take out the trash, as Honolulu Magazine reported in September 2013.

It’s tough to attract crowds to watch UH football lately though, given four straight losing seasons. Coach Norm Chow, who’s getting ready to start his fourth season, went 4-9 last year, his best yet.

But while heads have rolled a lot lately at UH — including Jay, former Chancellor Tom Apple and Michele Carbone, who headed the cancer center — Chow is keeping his job.

The search committee plans to post the job opening Wednesday.

While the committee’s makeup was just announced Tuesday, it apparently already met at least once, last Friday, according to a UH release.

Interested AD candidates will have about a month to submit their applications, the release says, with the committee to begin the process of reviewing the applicants and performing the required due diligence and reference checks in mid-February. Initial interviews will be held no later than early March.

Bley-Vroman said in the release that the general timeline to select the new AD is no later than mid-year.

UH plans to launch a website by Wednesday,, to keep the public updated on the search process.

In addition to Haruki, the other committee members are: John Dean, chairman and CEO, Central Pacific Bank; David Ericson, faculty athletics representative and professor, College of Education, UH Manoa; Elizabeth Ignacio, an assistant professor in UH medical school’s surgery department and the surgical director at Queen’s Center for Sports Medicine; Marilyn Moniz-Kahoohanohano, assistant athletics director, Intercollegiate Athletics, UH Manoa; Amanda Paterson, director of compliance, Intercollegiate Athletics, UH Manoa; Allen Uyeda, the retired president and CEO of First Insurance Co.; and Kelley Withy, MD, professor at UH John A. Burns School of Medicine.

Michele Tom, the UH Manoa executive search coordinator, will be assisting in an ex-officio capacity.

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