- Associated Press - Tuesday, December 9, 2014

HONOLULU (AP) - Hawaii athletic director Ben Jay resigned Tuesday after a two-year tenure marked by failed efforts to stop the university’s athletic department from losing money.

Jay cited family reasons for resigning at a news conference with University of Hawaii interim Chancellor Robert Bley-Vroman. The resignation will be effective at the end of June.

Bley-Vroman said he’ll have a process in place by the end of January to begin looking for a replacement.

“It’s a very hard thing for me to step away from this, but I do so knowing what’s best for myself and for my family,” Jay said.

He said “something told me I kind of needed to take a step back.” He didn’t elaborate.

Bley-Vroman said Jay was not being forced out.

Before he announced his resignation, Jay announced that football coach Norm Chow would be retained after a 4-9 season.

The university athletic department is facing a $3 million deficit, even though the Manoa chancellor’s office last year absorbed $13 million in debt that the department had accumulated so it could become solvent in 2014.

The men’s basketball team, meanwhile, has been under investigation by the NCAA since March.

The university fired head coach Gib Arnold, who had been with the program for four years in his first Division I head coaching job, in October just weeks before the season started. The school also fired assistant coach Brandyn Akana.

Arnold compiled a record of 72-55 over four years, including 20-11 last year.

School officials did not say why Arnold and Akana were dismissed.

The university earlier this year self-reported a Jan. 9 incident in which “a men’s basketball coach submitted an altered document that was essential for admissions purposes,” according to information obtained by the Honolulu Star-Advertiser.

Jay on Tuesday praised the football program for having its highest-ever team GPA and a climbing graduation rate. He said he knows Chow is the right person for the coach job when he sees how he talks with players.

“We have a ways to go - 4-9 is not successful, but it’s improvement, it’s improvement over where we’ve come from,” Jay said.

The school needs to keep recruiting and build depth, Jay said.

Bley-Vroman said part of the search for a new director will involve discussions about how Hawaii will create a financially sustainable athletic program.

Hawaii’s remote location creates special challenges, he said. But he noted the athletics program isn’t just about the university, but about the state and the people of Hawaii.

“Hawaii needs a strong athletic program. It’s part of what makes us who we are. So we need to figure out a way to make that work,” Bley-Vroman said.

Jay ruffled feathers in August when he said the school might have to give up its football program if the athletic department continued to be mired in debt.

That wasn’t his only brush with tampering with Hawaii tradition.

One of his first moves after taking the post in 2012 was to officially drop the name “Rainbow” from the Warriors men’s teams and Wahine women’s teams, a decision he later backtracked on.

The university has struggled for years to maintain steady leadership of the athletic department.

Jay was hired to replace Jim Donovan in 2012 as the university sought to recover from a botched effort to have Stevie Wonder perform in a concert to raise money for the athletic department.

The university lost $200,000 after it wired money as a deposit to a company claiming to be Stevie Wonder’s booking agent. The university called off the event after Wonder’s agents notified them that the company had no authority to set up events for the singer.

Donovan succeeded Herman Frazier, who was fired one day after then-football coach June Jones announced he was leaving for Southern Methodist University.

Jay came to Hawaii after serving as senior associate athletic director for finance and operations at Ohio State since 2006.

The University of Hawaii at Manoa is the only Division I program in the state. It is a member of the Mountain West Conference for football and Big West Conference for most other sports.

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