High school sports administrators are in the process of deciding how to make important changes to the state football tournament.
A proposal will be finalized soon, and when it is, it will be brought to the Hilton Waikoloa Village on the Big Island for the Hawaii Interscholastic Athletic Directors annual meeting in June.
Last year, when the Hawaii High School Athletic Association rushed in changes for a three-division state tournament, it was brought in as a one-year pilot program and, in part, to ensure that the three distinct levels would create competition that is more fair for all types of schools — public/private, big/small enrollments, hungry for the best competition/barely enough players to field a team.
Many sources believe that there will be two big changes in Year 2:
>> A stipulation that all leagues must declare their schools for one of the state-tournament divisions (whether they make the field or not) before the football season starts.
>> Six-team tournaments all across the board in the three divisions. A year ago, the highest and lowest levels were six-team tournaments, but in the middle, eight teams were packed in.
It’s still possible that this is all a prelude to a bigger change that will not so much depend on the HHSAA as it will on the two Oahu leagues.
Before the three-division state tournament passed, a separate proposal got legs but didn’t make it. That is the so-called Oahu Interscholastic Association/Interscholastic League of Honolulu football alliance. That plan had sweeping support from the ILH, but the OIA camp was broken into three parts — for it, against it and on the fence.
And while we appear to be approaching Year 2 of the three-tier tournament, the alliance idea is not completely dead and could crop up within the next few years.
One reason to go that way would be to create more competitive games each week. That, ostensibly, would create more fan interest and bigger gate receipts. Also, another possibility, but not certain, is an influx of money to each school from the business community. That was a carrot that was dangled to the schools last year and not taken. So, for future proposals, there’s no guarantee of a payoff that could be used to improve a school’s facilities and equipment.
Another benefit could be that with less mismatches, there would be less potential for injuries. A team with 100 players on the roster playing against a team with 25 is not fair to anyone.
There are those against combining the two leagues and they are mostly administrators and coaches from the OIA. They are less vocal, per se, but what they see is an unfair playing field simply because private schools in the ILH can pay the tuition of players and, can attract players from a larger area (the whole state) and, for the most part, have better privately funded facilities and, so the mainstream thinking goes, can offer a better education.
That is the reality of Hawaii, though.
The OIA, if it wanted to, could go off on its own and play a public school-only championship. Some states do that. That would leave the ILH — with three D-I schools and four in D-II — high and dry.
Most of the OIA administrators do not want to go that far and feel comfortable, in general, with competition against the ILH. If they weren’t on board with it, they wouldn’t have agreed to the inaugural state tournament in 1999 in the first place.
But there are some OIA administrators who feel that by forming an alliance, they’ll be giving up their autonomy and giving the private schools more of a chance to come out on top. Simple math, depending on how you do your equations, can bear that out. For years, 1 ILH team and 3 OIA teams qualified for the top tier tourney. In the pilot program last year, it was 2 ILH and 4 OIA, but in an OIA-ILH alliance, it would likely be a regular season of 3 ILH schools battling for 2 spots and a handful or more of OIA schools trying for 4 spots.
With all of this in mind, the following example is one way to roll for Oahu football if an alliance is ever formed.
Note: This is far from official or even likely and only a fictional look of what could be. For years, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser and Hawaii Prep World have received comments from Hawaii residents who favor such an alliance. The example alignment is based on the relative power factor of the schools in the last few years.
>> Saint Louis
Open Division format: Two nonleague/preseason games against D-I teams from any of the state’s leagues or from any school from out of state. Eight-game regular season. The regular season champion or co-champions determined by final standings. The top 4 OIA schools and the top 2 ILH schools advance to the states.
>> St. Francis
Division I format: Two nonleague/preseason games against teams from any of the state’s leagues or from any school from out of state. If two nonleague games are in-state, the preference could be for one against D-I and one against D-II to breed future competition. Eight game regular season. Regular season champion or co-champions determined by final standings. The top 3 OIA schools and the top ILH school advance to the states along with the Maui Interscholastic League and the Big Island Interscholastic Federation champions.
>> Pearl City
Division II format: Two nonleague/preseason games against D-I or D-II teams from any of the state’s leagues or from any school from out of state. Eight game regular season. Regular season champion or co-champions determined by final standings. The top 2 OIA schools and the top ILH school advance to the states along with the Maui Interscholastic League, the Big Island Interscholastic Federation and the Kauai Interscholastic Federation champions.
Note: A committee could be set up to gather information on the manpower and a qualitative analysis of each varsity and JV team every year, so that teams needing to move down or up a division aren’t stuck where they don’t belong. The committee could also oversee transfer and eligibility issues and various public/private rules.