Hawai’i athletic director Craig Angelos joins “Wake Up in the Den with Ku’ulei Agbayani”

Hawai’i athletic director Craig Angelos joins “Wake Up in the Den with Ku’ulei Agbayani”

Hawai’i athletic director Craig Angelos joins “Wake Up in the Den with Ku’ulei Agbayani”

BY MICHAEL LASQUERO | HSRN
PUBLISHED JUNE 19, 2024

HONOLULU — What a difference a year makes.

University of Hawai’i athletics director Craig Angelos returned for another appearance on “Wake Up in the Den” Wednesday morning in what was one year and two weeks since his first official day on the job.

Angelos reflected on his first year on the job and the various changes, or rather “adjustments,” that the athletic department has made over that span before looking to the future and answering some questions from our text line and studio hosts Ku’ulei Agbayani and Paul Brecht.

Angelos said the first year was about looking, listening and learning. He said his mantra was to ask a lot of questions and embrace what’s working well and make improvements where possible. Angelos added that he lives in Manoa and has no children on island which allowed him to be even more dedicated to his role.

“My life is my job,” Angelos said.

One of the things he was impressed about the program and culture in his first year was how well Hawai’i does senior night.

“That is unprecedented. Unbelievable. Nothing is ever like that anywhere on the continent,” said Angelos, who has administrative experience in multiple universities on the mainland such as Indiana, Florida Atlantic, Temple and Long Island University.

An adjustment that Hawai’i athletics made in Angelos’ first year was listening to a suggestion made by Men’s Volleyball coach Charlie Wade in keeping the same court configuration for both volleyball and basketball. This allowed both sports to have the same amount of seats — with most of them being courtside — and in turn bring in $105,000 of new revenue per season.

Selling prime parking stalls close to the SimpliFi Arena at Stan Sheriff Center could be another avenue  worth exploring to generate more revenue for athletics.

With many programs bracing for the potential approval of the  settlement in the House v. NCAA antitrust case, universities could be responsible for a figure of around $500,000 that they have to pay out for the next 10 years.

“Everybody has to monetize their inventory the best they can. That’s the name of the game as an athletics director,” Angelos said.

“Every year our budget our expenses go up about 2 to 2.5 million dollars a year. This upcoming year, just to stay status quo, our expenses will increase 2.6 million dollars a year, and that’s just to stay status quo. That’s not giving anyone new money in their budget.”

Angelos noted that everything is a balance and a constant question of “benefit versus the burden.” He added that he is sensitive to how expensive the cost of living is in Hawai’i and that they “can’t be jacking up ticket prices” to the common fan.

“We’re not like a pro sports organization, we represent the state,” said Angelos. “We work for the state and the people so I think we have a greater responsibility to make sure we do it the right way.”

Texter Jerry B from Utah had a question regarding a cryptic tweet by Angelos about some big news coming on Monday June 24, which Angelos was more than happy to give some scoops.

After various Hawai’i athletic sports had a special jersey night game where they auctioned off the game-worn jerseys after the match this past season, the university is taking it one step forward that will have even more fan-input.

Through some partnerships, Hawai’i will have the first-ever design contest for a jersey that the women’s basketball team will wear during a future game. The winning designer will also win a cash prize for the jerseys.

A texter from the Bay Area had a question about building up Hawai’i athletics’ brand on the continent and the many university alumni on the mainland.

Angelos responded saying that they are going to start fundraising in areas like San Francisco, Los Angeles and Las Vegas. He also said that the program is trying to deal with Las Vegas to help monetize that piece because games in Hawai’i are considered “chase games” in the sports-betting realm being in a later time zone. He added that the university did change its branding and licensing company recently as they look to expand not just eastward on the mainland but westward in Japan and Asia.

“The name Hawai’i has a positive connotation anywhere in the world because the islands of Hawai’i is very beautiful and our university if Hawai’i so we have great brand awareness and it’s like how can we expand that brand awareness outside of Hawai’i, get it onto the continent and other places.”

Another texter asked if the bleachers at T.C. Ching Field were rented or bought and if the university will be renewing its apparel contract with Adidas.

The question about the ownership of the bleachers was answered quickly because the athletics department paid for them to get there, but Angelos was also able to shed some light on the progress of the New Aloha Stadium Entertainment District and affirmed that Ching Field is not the permanent home for the Rainbow Warriors.

“That whole stadium is a temporary stadium. It’s designed to be temporary,” said Angelos. “If it was every something that we had to stay in for our whole career, we’d probably have to take it down and rebuild it back up because it is temporary.”

Angelos said talks for the new Aloha Stadium are going well and that committees in charge are evaluating and going to choose next month between two developers that came forward with their plans. He added the hard work begins after they select one because there will be a nine-month period of time of negotiating between the two parties on a contract and that if everything stays on track that they will open against Kansas in 2028 in the new stadium.

Angelos is optimistic that things will stay the course.

“I’m hoping that it will because that will also free up land on our camps to do a (student-athlete) performance center and to have football practice fields and things like that that we can use 365 days a year,” he said.

The Hawai’i athletic director noted there isn’t much space on lower campus and that the football team currently has to share their lone field with intramural and marching band practice, which is “unheard of at the FBS level.”

Regarding the Adidas contract that is due up around next June, the decision will be made before the end of the calendar year because you have to order everything nine months before a season, Angelos said. 

If the Hawai’i athletics choose not to re-up with Adidas, some options include Nike, Under Armour and possibly New Balance. Angelos has experience working with all brands and even mentioned possibly going back to the older model of some sports going with one vendor and other sports going with another, saying ASICS is more of a niche in volleyball.

“We just have to go and see what’s the best deal for Hawai’i athletics and keep going forward,” said Angelos.

He added that if the university does not continue with Adidas, that “the switchover costs are expensive though. That’s the problem. Now you have to all buy new. Transition costs are the only thing that scares you.”

Steven McBride catches a pass during 2024 spring practice | Photo by Michael Lasquero, HSRN

One future adjustment for Hawai’i athletics is making that will have a positive impact towards success is that the Rainbow Warriors will be able to charter their flights for the football team, something that hasn’t been done since the June Jones-era, Angelos said.

Thanks to a good deal with Hawaiian Airlines, nine out of the 10 flights will be chartered for the football team’s private use in 2024, Angelos said.

Angelos said that this will the Rainbow Warriors to leave later in the week for road games as well as arrive home nearly a day earlier instead of flying commercial.

“It’s going to be a great benefit I think for our players and our coaches because they’re going to have a regular work week. They’re not going to have to leave on a Tuesday or Wednesday like we did all the other away games”

Angelos said the goal is to be up in the air after two hours after a road game, which should allow the team to arrive in Honolulu around 2 a.m. Sunday morning, giving the players a full day off.

“I think on the front end it’ll create a lot of structure and on the backend it will allow them to get home that day and be off all-day Sunday and start up on Monday.”

The lone flight that will be on commercial will be when Hawai’i travels to San Diego State for a game on October 4th, but the Rainbow Warriors will fly back on a charted flight. 

“Nine out of 10 legs will be chartered. That should make a big difference I think in the preparation and the rest and just everything,” Angelos said. “It’s consistent with all the industry standards. There’s not one FBS team out of 133 that doesn’t charter. I think we’re the only teams that (don’t).”

Angelos is optimistic about the adjustments and is hopeful for the upcoming season, predicting a 7-5 season with a bowl game appearance.

One question another texter had was if there were any current coaches on the warm or hot seat. Angelos answered the question by saying that these are athletic contests and that coaches “are paid to win games.”

He also said: “I think the standard is to win the conference championship and go to the NCAA tournament or go to a bowl game. That should be the standard for everybody and I think they all know that. Every situation is different, but I think they all feel that is the goal.”

A follow up question to Angelos’ response was what kind of characteristics Angelos would be looking for in potential future coaches to be a part of the Hawai’i family of coaches.

Angelos said the No. 1 thing is that they are able to bring in talent and great players. He noted that some times it’s a balancing test between talent and character, but that it’s the players that are scoring or making goals, not the coaches.

Angelos added that the “overarching thing is you want good, nice people that’s going to treat the student-athletes and other people well, have integrity, nice and people that are not jerks.”

Another question from a texter asked if there would be new football uniforms this year. Angelos said there still be the same black and white uniforms, but he would like to have a green one in the future. They just didn’t have any money in the budget this year because they spent a lot of it for helmets and player safety recently.

One of the last questions that Angelos answered was about the men’s volleyball first national title that was won in 2002, but had to be vacated due to some infractions. Angelos said that they are continuing to push for it to get reinstated and noted that it’s a little different from the Reggie Bush situation because that dealt with the Heisman Trust and not the NCAA.