Neal Milner: Enough With The Meddling In UH's Choice Of A Football Coach - Honolulu Civil Beat


About the Author

Neal Milner

Neal Milner is a former political science professor at the University of Hawaii where he taught for 40 years. He is a political analyst for KITV and is a regular contributor to Hawaii Public Radio's "The Conversation." His most recent book is The Gift of Underpants. Opinions are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Civil Beat's views.

Opinion article badgeThe controversial search for a new football coach is over. Timmy Chang got the job, June Jones did not.

Such a commotion. All the sturm and drang (rhymes with Jones and Chang). Stop it already. Take a breath. Deal with it.

There are important principles at stake for doing so. Like maintaining the integrity of the university by protecting it from political interference.

UH administrators had a decision to make and made it. The search had flaws. Some were simply based on bad negotiating. Others arose because so many people in the community thought that it was supposed to be a Jones anointment rather than a full-on search.

Whatever.

UH officials made a judgment call that was well within the bounds of their authority and no one else’s authority to make.

Those are the rules. They are there to protect personnel decisions from political interference.

Political interference? Whatever do you mean? Let me put it this way: how many of you have complained about Hawaii’s politicians sticking their noses where they don’t belong? Proboscis politics.

That’s exactly what has happened and continues to happen with the coaching thing.

And that’s causing important people to misbehave by inappropriately mucking around in UH business.

At its root, hiring is simply a personnel decision. Hey, I’m not clueless. I know it is more important to the public than a search for a new dean of Arts and Humanities or the co-chair of the Faculty Senate Ad Hoc Committee on Urinal Repair.

But importance does not obviate either the rules or the norms. When it comes to hiring, it is crucial for the university to stand its ground.

UH is especially and specifically protected. By law, the university has a special degree of autonomy, more than other state agencies, in managing its affairs. That’s in the state constitution. The public approved that stipulation in a statewide election over 20 years ago.

This autonomy is not a done deal or an automatic trump card. There are constant skirmishes between university officials and the legislators who often view this autonomy as some kind of invasive species.

the homepage for the UH football team Jan. 24 featured new coach Timmy Chang.
The homepage for the UH football team Jan. 24 featured new coach Timmy Chang. UH Athletics/2022

But it is there, reasonably well established, along with the assumptions that proper norms will develop to support this idea. In a well-functioning world, these norms apply to the public as well as the big shots.

Sure, people have the right to complain if they don’t like something UH has done, say like choosing Chang over Jones. But we need to keep our anger and hurt feelings in a broader perspective.

OK, maybe that legal stuff sounds a little too abstract. So, let’s go real life and consider some actual bad, process-threatening behavior on the part of politicians who don’t like the coaching choice UH just made.

The first one is by a public official who normally behaves well, Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi.

Mayor Blangiardi, who in my book has generally done a good job overall and is typically careful with his words, misbehaved when he said publicly soon after the decision that June Jones was “uniquely qualified.” Failing to hire him, the mayor went on to say, was “a major failure of leadership at multiple levels.”

The mayor claimed he was “speaking personally.”

Let’s call what Blangiardi did there a minor failure of leadership at one important level.

Come on, Mister Mayor. When a politician speaks publicly about a highly emotional issue, he or she is never speaking personally.

It’s disingenuous for him to think his remarks wouldn’t add fuel to the fire. Maybe that’s what he wanted to do. Who knows? In any case, that’s all we need because we have more than enough agitators and boundary crossers.

And those would be some of our legislators.

Am I alone or do many of the rest of you often feel puzzled and discouraged by our state legislators? Ever heard any stories about legislative interference, special favors or just plain bullying? You have? Well, I’ll be jiggered.

Welcome to the post-coaching crisis legislative world. Sen. Donovan Dela Cruz and Rep. Bob McDermott have asked for a legislative investigation of the hiring.

Right. Good call. Nice time management. In the middle of likely the most important legislative session in the most fraught circumstances of our lifetime, these statesmen can find the time to do something that’s really important, which is to browbeat university officials for making the wrong coaching choice and threatening to punish them for it.

It’s time to move on because of the broader-than-football principles at stake.

You representatives of the people need some suggestions on how to fill your legislative time? If it’ll help, ask your constituents for a checklist.

It’s time to move on because of the broader-than-football principles at stake.

And you know why else it is time to move on? Because under the circumstances, all the grumbling, gnashing, and shouting are inappropriate and counterproductive.

You know who has shown really good initiative in understanding this? Not the politicians, that’s for sure.

No, it’s been the football people who did not get the coaching job. Maybe it’s because they are nicer people. Maybe it’s because they understand firsthand the need to move on after you lose.

Very soon after June Jones did not get the job, he issued an unequivocal statement supporting Timmy Chang and reminding people of the close links between the new coach and himself.

Same for Rich Miano, a UH football legend who probably would have come to work for Jones had he been hired.

“My message is to rally around the guy that’s a native son,” Miano said, “a guy that’s going to need all of our help, a guy that if this program is at a crossroads the only way up is for us to support him.”

And Timmy Chang himself: “I’m back, I’m home, and in my heart I never left. This is beyond incredible for me and my family.”

He and his wife have six children.

So, here, Coach Timothy Kealii’okaaina Awa Chang, is your first big decision:

Public school or private school?


Read this next:

Hawaii Does Not Need a Minimum Wage Increase


Not a subscription

Civil Beat is a small nonprofit newsroom, and we’re committed to a paywall-free website and subscription-free content because we believe in journalism as a public service. That’s why donations from readers like you are essential to our continued existence.

Help keep our journalism free for all readers by becoming a monthly member of Civil Beat today.

Contribute

About the Author

Neal Milner

Neal Milner is a former political science professor at the University of Hawaii where he taught for 40 years. He is a political analyst for KITV and is a regular contributor to Hawaii Public Radio's "The Conversation." His most recent book is The Gift of Underpants. Opinions are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Civil Beat's views.


Latest Comments (0)

Interesting contrast here: all this angst and commentary over legislative interference into who gets hired as the football coach for a program that looses money every year and needs to be subsidized by the rest of the University - while there is a bill in the legislature intended to deny tenure to a host of University faculty among whom are those faculty researchers who bring hundreds of millions of dollars to the state and the University every year and generate new research results on essential resources (water, renewable energy, food crops, native plants and animals) and impact our future quality of life. A clear violation of the University's autonomy and the

drradon · 7 months ago

What does all this have to do with the university's purpose of providing higher education?

williamwilson · 8 months ago

The mayor should be talking publicly about the lack of a new police chief and not speak publicly about any UH football coach.Nothing wrong with UH coach Chang sending his kids to St. Louis his alma mater. A lot of St. Louis alma mater send their kids there as they had a good upbringing.

roger808808 · 8 months ago

Join the conversation

About IDEAS

IDEAS is the place you'll find essays, analysis and opinion on every aspect of life and public affairs in Hawaii. We want to showcase smart ideas about the future of Hawaii, from the state's sharpest thinkers, to stretch our collective thinking about a problem or an issue. Email news@civilbeat.org to submit an idea.

Mahalo!

You're officially signed up for our daily newsletter, the Morning Beat. A confirmation email will arrive shortly.

In the meantime, we have other newsletters that you might enjoy. Check the boxes for emails you'd like to receive.

  • What's this? Be the first to hear about important news stories with these occasional emails.
  • What's this? You'll hear from us whenever Civil Beat publishes a major project or investigation.
  • What's this? Get our latest environmental news on a monthly basis, including updates on Nathan Eagle's 'Hawaii 2040' series.
  • What's this? Get occasional emails highlighting essays, analysis and opinion from IDEAS, Civil Beat's commentary section.

Inbox overcrowded? Don't worry, you can unsubscribe
or update your preferences at any time.