Retired University of Hawaii athletic director Hugh Yoshida will be the honorary team captain when UH opens against USC in football Thursday at Aloha Stadium. Yoshida spoke to the team Tuesday at practice and to me for a few minutes afterward.
DR: You became a college athletic director late in your career after spending most of it as a high school coach and AD. What kind of challenges did that present that might translate to a new college head coach?
HY: Those challenges would include a fast learning curve of understanding the institution and how to get things done. Also the politics that go with dealing with the NCAA. I was fairly wet behind the years.
DR: Is this analogous to coach Chow’s situation?
HY: There’s a lot of things that you’re not familiar with as an assistant coach. I’m sure there’s a lot of challenges from a time standpoint. There’s a lot of time commitment. The reality of the job, moreso now because of the money part. Trying to raise money and sell the program. The job is a lot about time management. You got to have staff that can help you.
DR: There’s a story that has become legendary about you and Norm as young coaches at Waialua, Norm as the JV coach and him not wanting to share new footballs with the varsity. How much truth is there to that?
HY: I wasn’t there. I don’t know, but I heard there was a problem with sharing the ball with the coaches there. I was up at Leilehua. It wasn’t me. There was a guy named Tom Cummings. When I left (Waialua), Norm took my job, I was at Leilehua. I’m not sure. Maybe it was Leahey, Jim Leahey was there at the time as an assistant coach. I think he was practice teaching or something. I really don’t know. Because I wasn’t there. So I was completely out of that mix. I’d already left.
DR: When you were athletic director at UH, Norm was a candidate for head coach. At that time, compared to now is there a difference in the kind of coach he is?
HY: Ah, I would prefer staying away from that.
DR: It seems obvious that he cares about these guys, the players. There were some stories last year that he wasn’t good to some of the holdovers but there’s always going to be that perception when there’s a transition, right?
HY: It’s a matter of building a culture of what to expect from the coaching staff. People need to get in line, making sure they understand who he is, what he represents. How the program will be perceived, how his team will be perceived. What he wants the program is going to look like.
DR: What the program looks like, sometimes in a literal sense, with short hair and no names on the uniforms, right?
HY: For a kid to come over and buy in , it’s not just something that makes them better football players, they’ll become better people too. It’s a different culture than before when it was kind of loosey goosy.
DR: Most fans don’t care as long as they win, right?
HY: That’s very true. But they still care enough to donate. The other night the Na Koa Bowl raised 200 thousand dollars for the program. Murphy’s Pigskin Pigout another 50-80 thousand dollars.
DR: Is this because they like what Norm Chow is doing?
HY: The direction is up. They see he emphasizes doing the right things. Go to class. Get to practice on time. Work hard.