Lawmakers Move For Regents' AD Hiring, Firing Input After Graham Flap

Tabatha Wethal Headshot
View of the Hawaii State Capitol with the Koʻolau mountains visible in the background.
View of the Hawaii State Capitol with the Koʻolau mountains visible in the background.

A new bill proposed in Hawaii would give the University of Hawaii Board of Regents a larger role in hiring and firing the university’s highest-paid athletic department employees. Uh Seal

The Honolulu Star Advertiser reported that the Hawaii state Senate’s Higher Education Committee approved a bill Tuesday that would authorize the Board of Regents to terminate UH-Manoa’s athletic director and other personnel for cause.

The bill would also give the board responsibility in approving any athletic department hires with annual salaries of $200,000 or more. 

The bill, SB 3268, goes next to the Senate Ways and Means Committee and must also pass numerous floor votes before it can be signed into law by the governor.

Historically, the UH president hires and fires athletic directors, and the athletic director hires and fires coaches. The board’s role in athletics has been mostly to approve proposed salary ranges for coaches, the Star Advertiser reported.

State lawmakers questioned the university’s hiring and firing process at a Senate informational briefing Jan. 7, and asked that the board address a variety of complaints about then-football coach Todd Graham, and the UH administration’s response to them.

Graham resigned on Jan. 14 and Timmy Chang was announced Jan. 22 as Graham’s replacement after former UH coach June Jones turned down an offer to coach the team for two years, with Chang replacing him after that.

Sen. Donna Mercado Kim is chair of the Higher Education Committee and a sponsor of the bill. At a hearing before Tuesday’s vote she said she was concerned about what she described as a lack of “checks and balances” in the athletic hiring process. If Graham had not resigned, the state could have had to pay him $1.2 million to fire him without cause, or take on large legal fees to do so with cause, she said.

Graham’s salary was $850.000 and Chang’s has been reported at $500,000. Matlin’s is $313,548, according to the University of Hawaii Professional Assembly website, the Star Advertiser reported.

Scott Collins of the Hawaii Government Employees Association, which represents UH coaches, spoke in opposition of the bill at the hearing.

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