HONOLULU -- Hawaii coach Greg McMackin apologized Thursday for making a derogatory remark usually directed toward gays while describing Notre Dame's chant during a dinner banquet leading up to last year's Hawaii Bowl.
McMackin used the slur during a media briefing at the Western Athletic Conference football preview in Salt Lake City.
After the remark, he uttered it two more times while trying to explain himself. After the briefing, McMackin returned to the reporters and apologized for using the "inappropriate" word.
"What I was trying to do was be funny and it wasn't funny," he said, according to a recording of the conversation posted on the Idaho Statesman's Web site. "It's not funny. Even more, it isn't funny to me. I was trying to make a joke and it was a bad choice of words. And I really, really feel bad about it. ... It was really stupid."
The school followed up with a formal statement by McMackin.
"I sincerely apologize for the inappropriate words that I used," he said in the statement. "My comments were out of character and I have no prejudices against anyone. I'm really upset with myself and I'm truly sorry for my remarks."
WAC commissioner Karl Benson said McMackin's offensive comments brought negative publicity to the conference "at an event where the purpose was to promote the WAC in a positive manner."
"While his comments clearly violate the WAC Code of Conduct, I will wait until the University of Hawaii determines its course of action before determining what sanctions the WAC may impose," Benson wrote in an e-mail.
The second-year Hawaii coach said he has nothing but respect for the Fighting Irish, who routed the Warriors 49-21 for their first postseason victory in 15 years. McMackin called it the worst loss in his 40 years of coaching.
Hawaii athletic director Jim Donovan, who called Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick to apologize on behalf of the university, said he will meet with McMackin on Friday.
"I've conveyed my disappointment to him and he has expressed deep regret for showing such poor judgment," Donovan said. "Aside from today's inexcusable statement, Coach McMackin has been a steadfast ambassador for the university and the state of Hawaii."
School chancellor Virginia Hinshaw said she also expressed her disappointment to the coach.
"Hurtful language like this has no place in our community and particularly not among leaders of our ... campus," said Hinshaw, adding "further steps that will be taken to reaffirm his and our commitment to fair and equal treatment of all."
Before joining the Warriors, McMackin spent three years with the San Francisco 49ers as associate head coach and linebackers coach under Dennis Erickson from 2003-05. He has also served as defensive coordinator for the Seattle Seahawks and several college programs including Texas Tech, Miami, Navy, Utah and Idaho.
The news of the comments spread fast in the islands where McMackin is widely known as a warm and caring leader who often reaches out to the community.
"I'm repulsed," said Carolyn Golojuch, a UH alumnus and president of the Oahu chapter of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbian and Gays.
She said there's a larger issue at hand with the "atmosphere of fear" in football.
"This goes on all the time. This is not an isolated incident. Football coaches, not just ours, continue to be abusive," Golojuch said. "Why do professional football players come out of the closet after they retire? Because of fear."
This is not the first time a Hawaii athletic figure issued an apology for using insensitive language.
Former athletic director Hugh Yoshida said in 2000 that the reason the university switched from its longtime Rainbow logo was in part due to its connection as a symbol for gays and lesbians.
"That logo really put a stigma on our program at times in regards to it's part of the gay community, their flags and so forth," Yoshida said then, a day after the current Polynesian-style "H" logo was unveiled.
Yoshida quickly apologized for his comments.