It is rare that a coach of one of the University of Hawaii’s more visible athletic teams leaves for more verdant coaching pastures and bigger stacks of moolah.
So exceedingly rare, in fact, that just three — Dick Tomey, June Jones and, now, Nick Rolovich — have done it in 43 years of the school’s Division I history across football, men’s basketball, women’s volleyball, baseball or softball.
That’s something not many schools, especially at UH’s mid-major level, can say.
The history of that kind of enduring commitment is undoubtedly part of the reason some segment of fans are disturbed by Rolovich’s $3 million-a-year deal dash to Washington State this week.
That and the perception that while he quickly embraced his new home in the Palouse, it took a couple days to tweet out appreciation for his old one and the fans he left behind.
Hopefully today’s press conference in Pullman, Wash., will help further smooth things over because he’s become a pinata for some fans on social media, where he has been branded with “#liveforthe$$$” “#noaloha” and worse.
Fact is, we’ve been spoiled over the years by the steadfast dedication of Dave Shoji, Les Murakami, Riley Wallace, Vince Goo, Bob Coolen, Jim Schwitters and others, folks who have become UH lifers, if not statewide institutions.
The nature of the landscape now is that their depth of devotion and commitment is almost extinct. In many cases they built programs, some painstakingly from the ground up, and took guardianship of them.
But, then, times were often different, too. They had administrators who took a long-term view, they weren’t subject to social media firing squads after one bad season or weekend and nobody was waving a five-fold salary increase at them to leave.
When Tomey departed for Arizona after the 1986 season few begrudged him the move up the ladder or the modest amount of money that, by today’s standards, came with it. In some ways fans even welcomed the opportunity to see a new offense take root.
Tomey invested 10 years at UH, which was the most of any Rainbow Warrior football coach in 50 years. In the process he resuscitated the football program, made UH football on Saturday nights an event and rallied the state.
Jones worked wonders immediately, taking a program that had been an 0-12 laughing stock to a 9-4 turnaround and a bowl. By the time he left after nine seasons, UH had appeared in its only New Year’s Day bowl game, produced a Heisman Trophy finalist and finished 17th in a national poll.
Rolovich got the keys to a program leaking oil and running on worn rims. It had won 11 games and lost 39 in four seasons, twice going 0-for-8 in conference.
He delivered 28 victories, three bowl appearances and, eventually, an exciting, big-play offense while serving as head coach and self-appointed director of promotions and madcap antics.
It might have been intriguing to see what Rolovich had been able to accomplish if he stayed another four or five years. But with the megabucks being thrown at football coaches these days by the TV-enriched Power 5 schools, that was as unlikely to happen as Rolovich being at a loss for goofy costumes.
In the end, the bottom line is that Rolovich left UH in far better shape than he found it, which was just about all you can ask.
Reach Ferd Lewis at email@example.com or 529-4820.