Lassner picks Craig Angelos for University of Hawaii athletic director

·5 min read

May 13—At its monthly meeting Thursday at Honolulu Community College, the UH Board of Regents will vote on whether to approve the nomination.

University of Hawaii President David Lassner's nomination for the next UH athletic director has experience in generating revenue and developing on-campus facilities but no apparent business ties to the West Coast or Hawaii.

Craig Angelos, senior deputy director of athletics at Long Island University, was Lassner's choice from a pool of three to five finalists forwarded from an eight-member advisory /selection committee.

UH said the committee screened more than 60 applicants—there was no breakdown on how many applied on their own and how many were encouraged to seek the position—and eight were contacted for interviews. Although a UH spokesman said Lassner received recommendations in no particular order, according to a person familiar with the process, Angelos was the committee's unanimous choice.

At its monthly meeting Thursday at Honolulu Community College, the UH Board of Regents will vote on whether to approve the nomination. In January, David Matlin announced he would retire as UH athletic director June 2.

"If I receive the approval of the Board of Regents, my first order of business will be to meet with all of our stakeholders, starting with our student athletes, coaches, donors, alumni, staff and, of course, our fans, " said Angelos in a statement through UH.

"Though UH has unique opportunities and challenges being over 2, 500 miles from the nearest Division I program, UH Manoa has a solid athletic program led by outstanding individuals that is in a prime position to continue to excel in today's rapidly changing world of collegiate athletics. I'm so excited to get started. Finally, I want to thank President Lassner for recommending me. It's truly an honor. If approved, I look forward to working with the entire community and making Hawai 'i my home for a long time."

Of the past four athletic directors, Herman Frazier and Ben Jay did not have previous connections to Hawaii. Angelos, if approved, will inherit a 21-sport program that has operated in the red for several years, has a frosty relationship with key state lawmakers and has been without a permanent home for its football team since Aloha Stadium was self-condemned for spectator-attended events in December 2020.

Most of Angelos' jobs as a college sports administrator have been in the second chair. In his only job as athletic director, he was in charge of interscholastic sports at Florida Atlantic University from 2003 to 2012.

That included Sept. 4, 2004, when FAU, led by Hall of Fame coach Howard Schnellenberger, beat Hawaii 35-28 at Aloha Stadium.

At the time, the Owls were in the middle of transitioning from a NCAA Division I-AA program to Division I-A (now known as the Football Bowl Subdivision, which is the top level of college football ). Schnellenberger started the football program in 1999, and FAU played its first game in 2001.

They played their home games at 17, 417-seat Lockhart Stadium from 2003 to 2010, an hourlong drive from Boca Raton, where FAU is.

During Angelos' tenure as athletic director, the school raised $160 million to build a new 30, 000-seat, on-campus stadium and surrounding Innovation Village that includes dorms and other college buildings.

The Innovation Village includes a student apartment complex with rooms for 1, 216 upper-division and graduate students, and "amenities that include an outdoor pool, sand volleyball courts, barbecue grills, a fitness center, a convenience store, a computer lab, 'smart' conference rooms and a multi-purpose activity center, " according to the Florida Atlantic website.

The stadium construction may have factored into Lassner's choice, since UH's home for football since the 2021 season has been a 9, 000-seat, on-campus stadium (being expanded to 15, 000 before next season ). The Rainbow Warriors' previous home for football since 1975 was 50, 000-seat Aloha Stadium, which is now shut down and the state plans to rebuild, with availability for the 2028 season, at the soonest.

"He chaired the capital campaign for the university and led the charge on how to fund the project, " according to Angelos' LIU bio. "He conceived an idea that led to a $12 million gift as part of the public-private partnership and closed a number of seven-and six-figure deals. He led all aspects of the football stadium project from start to finish, including fundraising, premium seat deals, financing, design and naming opportunities."

The stadium opened in 2011, but Angelos was fired from FAU in 2012 by Mary Jane Saunders, who was FAU president from 2010 to 2013.

Schnellenberger had retired as football coach after the 2011 season but remained associated with the school as an ambassador and fundraiser.

According to an article in the Palm Beach Post at the time :

"FAU's athletic department reached unparalleled heights under Angelos. He oversaw the school's move to the Sun Belt Conference, with all programs gaining full membership by 2006. The football program moved from Division I-AA to Division I-A in 2004 and last season the long-awaited 30, 000-seat, on-campus stadium was unveiled.

"The department, though, has been lacking in fundraising and at least one coach, basketball's Mike Jarvis, has been critical of the department's marketing strategies.

"The department has mounting debt and the opening of the football stadium has added to those bills. The university took out a $44.5 million loan on the $70 million stadium."

The basketball team went 11-19 the season before Angelos was fired.

Angelos then began a string of second-in-command athletic department jobs, starting with the University of South Florida from 2012 to 2014. He has been at LIU since October, according to his LinkedIn profile.

Angelos, who is from Dugway, Utah, played baseball at BYU and has a law degree from Creighton.

He and his wife, Kristin, have six children.