The waiting game beginning to undermine UH recruiting

Having dropped two of its first three Big West games after an exciting and strong start to the season, the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors must be hoping that a return to the Stan Sheriff Center is just what the doctor ordered to regain that early momentum. With UC Davis in Manoa Thursday night (results unavailable) and UC Irvine on Saturday, the ‘Bows need to right the ship quickly or risk putting themselves in a position to have a plethora of must-win road games down the stretch.

While Hawaii (13-6, 1-2) has plenty of time to move up the standings, there is still the issue of the program’s future, which is no less voggy than it was before the season began. Two weeks ago, I wrote about a recruit’s father who emailed me hoping to glean some information about when the school might name a permanent head coach. I remarked that such a lack of clarity and communication puts the school at risk of missing out on Mainland recruits who would be hesitant to sign with a program without knowing who will ultimately be their coach.

Well, it seems it’s already happening. The same man emailed me again this week to let me know that UH is no longer going to be a consideration. It wasn’t because of a better offer or a desire to remain closer to home. The man said his son “wanted to attend Hawaii but through no apparent fault of their own, no one is able to tell us much of anything.”

With only a few months remaining in the school year, they are starting to make official visits and will make a commitment shortly thereafter, he said. They can’t wait for the school to first figure out its next athletic director by mid-year and to then determine if Benjy Taylor or someone else will become the head coach next fall. He added that they had spoken with a family close to their part of the country whose son had played at UH and “loved the experience.” Under normal circumstances, the ‘Bows would still be in the mix.

I’m sure this is something the current administration is already aware of. I’m sure they know these are the risks they are taking and have decided that being prudent in their leadership decisions outweighs the short-term loss in both players and prestige. And I’m certainly not advocating being shortsighted when it comes to an athletic department in financial trouble, because sometimes that can lead to a situation like UAB having to cut its football program. While that’s obviously a last resort, we know those words – though later backtracked – have already come from current AD Ben Jay’s mouth once before.

So finding the right athletic director is important. Having them involved in the basketball coaching decision is important. But there’s a way to do that and also keep potential recruits in the loop as to what the future might hold. Whatever fault UH found in Gib Arnold – which is also still something of a mystery – he had begun to build a pretty strong, exciting program. Interim coach Taylor has continued in that direction with a young team – that youth becoming suddenly very important if recruiting takes a hit – when very few expected him to do so.

It would be a shame for that to start to unravel, but anyone who signs with UH must essentially take a leap of faith that everything will work out just fine. This isn’t Duke or Kentucky, who would have the track record to make such a claim. This is the University of Hawaii, which offers a rich tradition and passionate fans, as well as a unique college experience. But when it comes to the major sports, any step back requires at least two steps forward to recover.

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David Simon can be reached at dsimon@thegardenisland.com.

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