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.