- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 13, 2015

HONOLULU (AP) - The University of Hawaii at Manoa has formed a committee to find a new director for the university’s deficit-mired athletics department, the school said Tuesday.

Grove Farm CEO Warren Haruki is leading the eight-person committee, which met for the first time last Friday. The committee plans to post the job on Wednesday and hold initial interviews no later than early March.

Manoa Chancellor Robert Bley-Vroman reiterated the school aims to select a new director by the middle of the year.

The athletics department faces a $3.5 million deficit during the current fiscal year.

Bley-Vroman said last month part of the search for a new director will involve discussions about how Hawaii will create a sustainable athletic program, noting athletics is important not just to the university but to the state of Hawaii as a whole.

On Tuesday, he said the school is looking for a leader who excels at community outreach and building partnerships. “We also need someone with the ability and agility to lead UH during this complex and important time in the evolving national collegiate athletics landscape,” Bley-Vroman said.

Current athletic director Ben Jay announced his resignation last month, citing family reasons. He’s expected to stay through June.

Under the prior university administration, the Manoa chancellor’s office in 2013 absorbed $13 million in debt the athletic department had accumulated. The move was designed to help the department become solvent, but the department was still in the red.

The current administration’s goal is for the department to be as efficient and self-sufficient as possible, university spokesman Dan Meisenzahl said. “UH leadership has also been explaining to all stakeholders that it is unrealistic that the program will be self-sustaining,” Meisenzahl said in an email.

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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