By KEVIN JAKAHI
Tribune-Herald sports writer
Under former athletic director Dexter Irvin, the University of Hawaii at Hilo sports department experienced a lot of change, including something of an identity upgrade with a new logo and fancy clothing line, but don’t expect interim AD Tim Moore to do the same.
“I want to maintain the program, give it continuity and provide leadership,” said Moore, the school’s director of the campus recreation department.
He was officially on the clock for a one-year term starting Jan. 1. Part of his job is to look under couches to find any loose change for a UHH program that is among the lowest funded in the 13-member Pacific West Conference.
Before Irvin left for his new AD job at College of Southern Nevada, he said UHH is near and will likely be at the bottom in the league (full of private and for-profit schools) with scholarships. In a nutshell, he said expenses, including travel to new schools, keep going up while funding from the state Legislature dwindles every year.
It’s quite a contrast between the jobs of the old and new UHH ADs. One huge reason Irvin is heading to the land of dry dirt is his desire to build programs; CSN has only baseball and softball, and is itching to add basketball.
“I’m going to look at our budget with fresh eyes, look for ways to be more efficient,” Moore said. “We have to look at new ways to generate revenue, opportunities with sponsors and donors, academic scholarships, by any and all means.”
He oversaw construction of the university’s on-campus pool, a highlight for students. As a UHH employee, but an outsider of the athletic department, he’s taking a broad outside-the-box view on the future of program.
“I think one thing we’re looking for is to create an identity and make UH-Hilo as a destination point,” he said.
Moore called pharmacy a flagship program, and the 105,500-square-foot housing complex across the street from the school’s Kawili Street entrance for 300 students as another attraction for a growing enrollment.
UHH has other carrots as well, such as the nursing and astronomy programs, and the best place to study the stars with the Mauna Kea telescopes. Nonresident tuition runs under 20 grand. There’s also the Western Undergraduate Exchange (WUE) rate to cut costs for nonresidents, especially mainland recruits.
Moore’s point was that UHH has more to sell than just its athletic department, which went through its own identity makeover under Irvin. During his four-year tenure, there are new coaches for men’s basketball (GE Coleman), women’s basketball (David Kaneshiro), baseball (interim Kallen Miyataki), softball (Jaime Wallin), soccer (Lance Thompson), volleyball (Tino Reyes), and tennis (Karl Sloss).
Irvin, who coached women’s basketball at Dixie State but remains a diehard Los Angeles Dodgers fan, once jokingly compared the Vulcans to the Oakland A’s, the financially strapped franchise made famous in the movie “Moneyball.”
In one scene, the Oakland players had to stick coins in a machine to pay for their own soda. Irvin noted that a vending soda machine is at one end of the athletic department. The former UHH AD’s takeaway was that the Vulcans “have to do more with less.”
In recent years, Reyes and Wallin have coached their teams to the NCAA West Regional. Thompson’s women’s soccer squad finished 10-4-2, including 7-4-1 in the PacWest, tied for third. Last May, Dalen Yamauchi was 76th at the Division II national championship.
When Irvin took over, his budget was $3.6 million. When he left, the faucet was still leaking and his cupboard held $3 million with the Vulcans responsible for raising one-third that amount.
Former UHH AD Bill Trumbo, now the Konawaena High AD, started and spearheaded the Annual Vulcan Athletic Fund Drive, which generated additional operational and scholarship funds and at one point held a rather healthy endowment.
Trumbo once said that “all Division II programs swim in red ink.” He was right. The red ink eventually shrank that endowment, leaving Irvin in a quandary in an exit interview with the Tribune-Herald.
“You can only sell Hawaii so much. We have unique things here,” Irvin said in November. “But at the end of the day, if it costs more money out of pocket, the less chance you have of getting that young person to come to school here.
“Our school is a diamond in the rough. That’s why I came here. The best and worst thing to have is potential. My regret is we weren’t able to reach our full potential. But in terms of our coaches, I feel we’ve got a really confident, steady group.”
With a fresh pair of outsider eyes, Moore sees the situation from all sides. He also said he hasn’t thought about applying for the job full-time, with so much on his plate — meetings (he’s booked solid for two weeks), conventions, one-on-one chats with coaches, staff and the school’s purse-string people.
“It’s a tough economic challenge,” he said. “But I’d like to think we’re going to be OK.”