Growing up in Honolulu, Derek Inouchi followed University of Hawaii sports with a passion, collecting team media guides the way other kids collected baseball cards and comic books. “Media guides were a way of following the team besides watching TV,” he recalls. “I read [the] histories of all the teams. I looked at the photos over and over.”
As an undergraduate student at UH, he grew interested in the public relations side of sports when he learned that that office produced his beloved media guides. An internship in the UH athletics department led to a full-time media relations job there, the only career he has ever known. He’s now finishing his first year as media relations director and is in his 11th year in the office.
“I couldn’t do this job at a school on the mainland, because there it would be just a job,” says Inouchi, who earned a bachelor’s in communications after considering becoming an accountant like his parents. “I wouldn’t have the passion anywhere else.”
Inouchi, whose office includes five other staffers, oversees publicity for 19 sport programs ranging from football to water polo. Without professional teams locally, Hawaiians follow UH sports intensely. UH’s athletics Web site gets more than 13,000 hits daily, so Inouchi and his colleagues not only work with local and national news media but post their own news and features.
Inouchi became director shortly before football season began last fall. His promotion meant becoming the primary media contact for the Warriors, the UH football team, so his life became a whirlwind of travel to road games on the mainland. Additionally, he had to juggle never-ending requests to interview quarterback Colt Brennan, a Heisman Trophy finalist, and then-football coach June Jones, a much-heralded figure who left after the season ended to coach at Southern Methodist University.
Because Hawaii is five time zones behind the East Coast, the highly influential New York sports columnists and pundits are often asleep by kickoff of the Warriors’ home games. Yet that didn’t temper enthusiasm last season from big-name publications, Inouchi says.
“It didn’t matter that we’re in the middle of the Pacific,” he says. “Colt was featured everywhere — Sports Illustrated, The New York Times, USA Today, ESPN The Magazine.”
Add to that the team’s going undefeated during the regular season and playing in the Sugar Bowl, Inouchi says, “and it was a once in a lifetime experience. The fact it all happened the same year, along with the ceremony for the Heisman finalists, and it was unbelievable.”
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