Feature on the push from Gov. Burns to upgrade UH’s Athletic Program and get into the WAC

HA Note: “Tired of watching UH football teams struggle in the 1960s, then-Gov. John A Burns challenged the school and its administration to put a competitive program on the field — or give up the sport for good. But Burns did more than issue an ultimatum, he provided a clear vision and the blueprint for not only UH football but its athletic program to play on the major-college level.”

About the relationship between athletics and academics, Gov. Burns said:
“Show me a university that is financially secure and I’ll show you its athletic foundation; show me a championship team and I’ll show you a student body academically driven by the same zeal of excellence.” (HA)

HA Note: “The governor enlisted his right-hand man, Dan Aoki, a former 442nd Regimental Combat Team sergeant, to plow ahead on the details. He rallied school officials, prominent citizens and businessmen behind the idea that UH could compete in not only football but several sports.”

About why they had to work so hard to get people behind UH Athletics, Jim Burns (the governor’s son) said:
“Back then people had to be persuaded because they didn’t think it (the climb to major college respectability) could be done. And the only way to do that was through the power and respect of the governor’s office.” (HA)

About how he identified the WAC as the goal for UH from 1966 (UH was admitted as a member in 1979), Gov. Burns said in 1969:
“We want to belong to a conference that would rate about with our prospects. The WAC does just that.” (HA)

HA Note: “Gov. Burns began by lobbying the western governors who had schools in the WAC. Then, he gave the new UH athletic director, Paul Durham, his marching orders.”

About how he worked on getting UH into the WAC, Paul Durham said:
“I started working on it (WAC membership) as soon as I got the (athletic director’s) job in 1968 at the governor’s request.” (HA)



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