June 4 – David Matlin started as athletic director at the University of Hawaii in 2015. On his last day on the job Friday, he said eight years ago the length of time he would last was 18 months.
David Matlin started as athletic director at the University of Hawaii in 2015. On his last day on the job Friday, he said that eight years ago the length of time he would last was 18 months.
“And I told them to take the bass,” Matlin said, without even the hint of a smile.
And, if we remember accurately, there wasn’t much to smile about with what he inherited. Football was losing: games and fans, with little hope of a speedy recovery, and men’s basketball was dealing with an NCAA investigation.
He knew how hard work is even when things are going well: the impossibility of keeping over a million takers happy (not counting fans who don’t live in Hawaii), how there’s never really a day off like all others. one of them comes with hundreds of emails and text messages.
His job was to get around all of that somehow and keep a primary focus on the well-being of the student-athletes.
“He wanted to serve at least five years (of his first contract),” Matlin said. “My dad (baseball executive Lew Matlin) always told him to keep his commitments.”
But, he also considered it a great privilege.
“What I owe to the University of Hawaii is immeasurable,” Matlin said. “This place gave me incredible blessings, education. I learned humility, which I needed. Without relationships, I wouldn’t have survived six months. The people I’ve met, it’s all about relationships.”
Matlin, 58, said she has “no idea” what she’s going to do next, other than going on a family trip and a class reunion, while mixing stand-up paddleboarding, hiking and recreational reading.
He said he would retire with his health intact, but added that keeping it that way is part of why he decided in January to leave the job.
“I’m fine,” said Matlin, a husband and father of two adult children. “But I need to focus on that.”
He then picked up his cell phone.
“One thing I’m going to work on is not having this with me 24/7,” he said.
Like Matlin eight years ago, Craig Angelos can’t break through now.
Before he can start moving cardboard boxes around his house and settling into what is his office, he has to do some other heavy lifting on his first two days on the job, Monday and Tuesday.
Maybe meeting new colleagues isn’t your idea of intensive work. But this is big stuff, so big that the Mountain West Conference calls it a board meeting.
These gatherings are always especially big for Hawaii, which plays soccer in the Mountain West and its other sports in the Big West. Due to our unique geography, there are always special rules for UH and its status always seems tenuous.
They hold these meetings every summer. It just so happens that this year he’s here and it coincides with the switch from Matlin to Angelos.
“We’ve been talking a lot, most recently on Sunday for a few hours,” Matlin said Friday. “I want to be an appropriate resource for him. I want to support him.”
You can bet that part of that conversation involved UH’s position in the Mountain West and how it should pay travel expenses to MWC teams that play here.
And you know conference ADs will be watching closely how construction is coming along at the Ching Complex, UH’s temporary home of football for the past two seasons and for the foreseeable future. It is “on schedule,” Matlin said, to go from 9,000 to 15,000 seats in time for the first start this fall.
Regardless, the overall situation of soccer facilities (no new Aloha Stadium until 2028?) is early proof of Angelos’s ability to put lipstick on a real oinker. Can he and other UH leaders convince the rest of the Mountain West to be patient with UH’s plight?
Much has been said about Angelos, 61, who did not work at any western Indiana university in his 30-year intercollegiate athletic administration career.
But, while you might be meeting some of your Mountain West AD peers for the first time this week, it’s not like you’re unfamiliar with most schools or the region and will be out of your comfort zone.
When Angelos worked in the NCAA from 1991 to 1994, one of his jobs was liaison with the Western Athletic Conference, from which eight schools infamously spun off to form the Mountain West in 1999.
Hawaii was not invited to join them then. Six of the eight original WAC dropouts are still on the mountain (interestingly, the two that don’t stick around, BYU and Utah, are Angelos’s alma mater and hometown college, as he was state football player of the year from 1979 at Salt Skyline High, the Lake City powerhouse).
“I thought a lot about college football,” said Angelos, who played baseball at BYU and professionally in Italy.
He also earned a law degree from Creighton and worked at law firms in Omaha and Los Angeles.
“The truth is, this guy has a lot of experience,” Matlin said of Angelos. “He’s excited to be here, and that’s very important.”
Angelos would be excited to be AD anywhere, considering how many jobs he applied for and didn’t get in the last decade, how many times he was overlooked or dismissed when a new university president took over, as happened at Florida Atlantic.
FAU, where a soccer program and stadium were built almost from scratch under his supervision, was his only job where he was sports director. He was number 2 in the department everywhere.
It would have been easy for him to give up many times in the last 10 years and go do something else.
She said she comes to Hawaii with her eyes open, knowing she has a lot to learn. She knows it’s a challenge, that there aren’t any Division I college or professional sports programs in a 2,500-mile radius. But he sees it as an opportunity if everyone rows in the same direction “Certainly there are many political factors, but I hope that we can all be aligned on our goal and our mission, from the governor’s office to the legislature, local government and the university. Angelo said. “That’s when things really happen. If there are disputes, it can lead to stalemate. My big goal will be to try to get that lineup together where we can do great things.”