Amid calls to remove UH football coach, officials must think about costs

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) — At least one state senator is now calling for the resignation of not only University of Hawaii head football coach Todd Graham, but his bosses as well.

But even letting go of just the coach can have expensive consequences, something that has happened before.

The university can fire Graham for free, but she has to pay.

“Over $400,000 a year, and he’s got three years left on that contract, so you’d be looking at a payout of over a million dollars,” attorney Jim Bickerton said.

“If they’re really serious about getting rid of him, they’re going to have to pay him,” attorney Eric Seitz said. “They may be able to negotiate a compromise arrangement.”

Bickerton represented Gib Arnold, who was fired as UH head basketball coach in 2014 during an NCAA investigation into illegal player benefits.

UH was sanctioned by the NCAA for violations, but Arnold claimed the school owed him $1.4 million for firing him for no reason before the investigation was completed.

The university ended up paying him more than a million dollars, including his attorney fees.

UH also paid $600,000 to Greg McMackin, who was fired as head football coach in 2011, and bought the remainder of Norm Chow’s contract for nearly $340,000 when he was fired in 2015.

State Sen. Donna Mercado Kim said in a statement: “If any of the allegations against Coach Graham prove true, the state (and the University) could be held liable, and we may have no alternative but to consider a contract buyout. or firing the coach for reason, that’s what I would prefer.”

On Wednesday, state senator Kurt Fevella expanded the grid and called on Graham, Athletic Director Dave Matlin and President David Lassner to resign, alleging they were not caring for the health, wellbeing and safety of their students.

“To make them say ‘overlook that’, ‘tough you’ or ‘you should tackle that’ – nobody should be bullied and bullied and be racist against,” Fevella said.

But UH disputes that. In an emailed statement, spokesperson Dan Meisenzahl said the claim that UH officials failed to ensure the safety, health and well-being of students “is false. Powerful mental health services are available to all UH Manoa students through Campus Counseling.” and Student Development Center, which accepts urgent individual walk-in appointments and telephone crisis consultations.

“Student athletes have added tiers of mental health services available through the athletic department’s medical staff and an exclusive third-party mental health provider. The student-athletes are also regularly reminded of the services available to them, and coaches and athletic department staff will encourage students to seek help when they see students who may be struggling,” he added.

Meisenzahl also said that if a player sought help for abuse from the coach, the school would have opened an investigation.

Despite the damning testimony at last week’s Senate hearing, it’s still just accusations.

“If he actually abused players, as has been suggested, maybe it would rise to that level, but there are two sides to any conversation,” Seitz said.

UH also said Graham waived the $20,000 bonus he was entitled to after the team made it to the Hawaii Bowl, which it never played.

The College of Regents of the university will discuss the football program in a meeting on January 20, but it does not have the authority to fire the coach. That responsibility rests with the sports director.

Copyright 2022 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.

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