2017 Top Stories: OIA football realignment?

Campbell's Elijah Montibon (32) and Isaiah Cabel-Tivao (15) took down Kaiser's Zayne Esteban (5) in a game last season. The Cougars were able to only suit up for one game because of low numbers, which was partly caused by being forced to play a Division I schedule. Photo by Darryl Oumi/Special to the Star-Advertiser.

In Tuesday’s Honolulu Star-Advertiser, Paul Honda wrote about the top 10 prep stories of 2017. You can read it here.

Here’s a deeper look at one of the 10 stories.

1. OIA football realignment?

There’s some talk that the Oahu Interscholastic Association may return to a three-tiered format in football soon. In the late 1980s and early ‘90s, the OIA created a unique and widely popular format for football. With powerhouse programs obliterating many of their much smaller opponents, the implementation of Red, White and Blue Conferences gave smaller programs a chance to compete against like-sized teams.

Though the playoff format of that era — four Red, two White and two Blue teams qualified for the OIA playoffs — is unlikely to be reborn, the format as a whole has plenty of support from coaches and fans.

The Hawaii High School Athletic Association took initiative in the fall of 2016 by starting an “Open” division along with its Division I and II brackets. The OIA took to the HHSAA’s pilot program by entering 10 teams in ’16: four in Open, four in D-I and two in D-II. The HHSAA had a total of 20 football teams in its state tournament.

That changed in ’17, when the OIA opted to send only three teams to the Open and none to D-I. And just one team entered the D-II state bracket.

The league went from 10 entries to just four. The state tourney field reduced from 20 to 12 teams. The event was enjoyable, even with fewer OIA teams. Kahuku reached the Open final and lost to Saint Louis. With the smaller bracket, the ILH had one entry instead of two in Open.

Hilo defeated Damien for the D-I crown, the first time a state football bracket didn’t include an OIA team. Waipahu, the OIA D-II champion, lost a wild 53-50 game at Konawaena, and defending state champ Lahainaluna repeated by outlasting Konawaena 75-69 in seven OTs.

If the OIA had remained status quo in ’17 and sent 10 teams to the state tournament, there would’ve been six more teams participating. Every coach willing to discuss the topic on or off record says he would have supported that approach.

Revenue is a key concern for the public-school league. Football helps cover costs for many other sports, so tinkering with it comes with caution. The current setup has 14 teams in Division I, split into two groups (Red and Blue) without any geographical lines. D-II in the OIA has eight programs.

A three-division structure means whittling down the most competitive division from 14 programs to anywhere from seven to eight teams. Some schools would support this. Example: Kaiser was forced to stay in D-I despite low numbers and not much physical size compared to the top programs. Also, several parents noted that more players would have tried out if a mammoth team like Kahuku was not on the schedule.

Meanwhile, smaller schools that have remained in D-II have been able to revive and thrive. The OIA hasn’t indicated any changes yet, but the discussion isn’t new.


  1. roughriders99 January 3, 2018 4:48 pm

    OIA should go back to a three tier system and call it Open, DI, DII
    Here are the teams:

    Open DI DII
    Campbell Aiea Kaimuki
    Farrington Castle Kalaheo
    Kahuku Kailua Kalani
    Kapolei Moanalua Kaiser
    Leilehua Nanakuli McKinley
    Mililani Pearl City Radford
    Waianae Waipahu Roosevelt

  2. roughriders99 January 3, 2018 4:51 pm


    Pearl City


  3. Mana kahala January 4, 2018 8:23 am

    @roughriders99 …that’s exactly the same thought I had ,over the last year. It would benefit every school,every kid ,every community.thats the best idea.i hope it turns our like that this season.

  4. ILH January 4, 2018 8:55 am

    10 to 4 participants. Just to stop the ILH from getting another berth in the OPEN Division.

    Result- No OIA state champ in any bracket. With all the talent they got. Such a shame.

  5. anywaaaays!! January 4, 2018 9:31 am

    The only shame I see is the ILH Agenda FORCING the OIA to adopt these types of playoff formats by stacking the deck with recruiting and destroying the competitive balance in high school football. The very existence of ILH football undermines any state championship and the spirit of the game itself. If you want high school football to just be played by mercenary teams in the Recruit Bowl, then by all means, go ahead. But if you care about community and community pride, and what the spirit of the game is all about, instead of just money, then you know what position you have to take.

    Disband all the football teams in the ILH and we’ll see what kind of enrollment numbers these “elite educational schools” have. LOL what a joke. RRFL!

  6. bumbuchas January 4, 2018 11:53 am

    Public schools should have their own state tournament. The private schools can continue to do all they do and compete in their own private school state tournament. We would have a public school $ private school Champion. No laugh as this option has been discussed.

    I believe the amt of teams in the respective 3 brackets being considered is 6 – 8 – 8. thus in the scenario described above by Roosevelt99 would have possibly Leilehua coming down to middle Tier. I hear thru the grapevine that Kaimuki wants to move up to middle Tier &a possibly Nanakuli moving down to D2. Also hear PC wants to move to D2, whaaaat? They got talent and a very large school enrollment within the top 10 of the public schools on Oahu. They should be forced to stay in middle Tier. No be Panties Chargers!

  7. Oahugrown January 4, 2018 4:04 pm

    Just merge the 2 ILH OIA all season long..no more complaining about who had tougher schedule or that ILH plays way less games then OIA have then play each other all year long and find out who really is the best.

  8. YAHYOU January 4, 2018 4:15 pm

    I like the teams in each division that roughriders99 posted looks fair and even

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