Confusion and frustration were just some of the terms bandied about by coaches and athletic directors who attended the BIIF football meeting Tuesday.
Kalei Namohala, the league’s football coordinator, however, is waiting for Konawaena to decide where it wants to be classified — in Division I or II before a 2019 schedule can be released.
But the Wildcats, according to coach Brad Uemoto, won’t know where they want to be until spring drills begin so he can get a grasp of how many players show up. The league’s deadline for teams classifying for a division is at the time of the monthly meeting in June, which has been moved to May 29.
“We are the holdup,” Uemoto admitted.
“Our roster is usually in the mid-30s with a lot of two-way players,” he added. “A move to D-I is not about talent. It’s about returning starters, numbers and quality of depth. We’ve been successful in Division II and we think we can compete in Division I, but we’re five injuries away from being a mediocre Division II team.”
The BIIF voted earlier this spring to forgo competition between Division I and II teams. With the addition of three schools moving up from 8-man to 11-man football (Ka’u, Kohala and Pahoa), there’s now 11 teams total. The league decided in February that there would be a 5-6 or 6-5 split.
But Uemoto and Konawaena came to Tuesday’s meeting intent on fighting for a three-tiered schedule (more on that proposal below) despite the league’s previous vote for two tiers.
Namohala was clear that the three tiers did not move forward Tuesday and that she has two two-tiered schedules (one with the Wildcats in D-I and one with them in D-II) prepared and ready for adoption once Konawaeana makes a decision.
Honokaa, which hired Fred Lau as head coach to replace Noeau Lindsay recently, has committed to moving up to D-I.
As it stands now, this is how the BIIF is classified for 2019:
>> Honokaa (up from D-II)
>> Hawaii Prep
>> Ka’u (up from 8-man)
>> Kohala (up from 8-man)
>> Pahoa (up from 8-man)
>> Konawaena (D-II last year)
Uemoto added that Konawaena is “leaning toward” D-I.
“I feel like we’ve gotten the program to a competitive standpoint in Division I on the island, but at the state level our fit is obviously D-II.”
Lau, who coached the Dragons to the BIIF title in 2009 and spent two years as Waiakea’s head coach, is raring to go.
“We look forward to battles every week in Division I,” Lau said. “It will be motivation for us. We know it’s going to be one uphill battle every week. The kids love it. I love it. We’d rather be up and fighting than rolling over teams.
“Konawaena is a top-notch program. Brad knows that if he plays D-I he gives up being that major contender in D-II statewide. His only worry about staying down is: Are those smaller schools up from 8-man going to be playing on a consistent basis?”
Forfeits by schools making the transition from the 8-man to 11-man level are a real possibility, Uemoto said.
“We’re a small school,” he added. “If we are in D-I, we’re going to be playing big school after big school after big school for 10 weeks. And then all those teams playing each other twice and then a third time for the championship. That’s overkill.”
One downside for schools choosing to play in D-II is that there will be no BIIF D-II JV competition.
One version of Konawaena’s three-tiered proposal is below. The divisional alignment is based on recent strength in standings, Uemoto said. State classification is in parentheses.
>> Hilo (D-I)
>> Kamehameha-Hawaii (D-II)
>> Kealakehe (D-I)
>> Konawaena (D-II)
>> Hawaii Prep (D-II)
>> Honokaa (D-I)
>> Keaau (D-I)
>> Waiakea (D-I)
>> Ka’u (D-II)
>> Kohala (D-II)
>> Pahoa (D-II)
The Red teams would play games against all Red and White teams.
The White teams would play against all Red and Blue teams.
The Blue teams would play against all Blue and White teams.
“They didn’t like the fact that the middle group is not playing each other,” Uemoto said. “But we’re trying to be creative to form a league that can competitively play each other. We want to see the 8-man teams survive and not get pounded. If their numbers are low and they have an academic probation problem, there’s a chance they may fold.”
In the playoffs for the BIIF championship under Konawaena’s suggestion, the top three Red teams, top two Blue teams and top White team would make the playoffs. The top Red and White teams would get a bye, and from there, the D-I and D-II teams getting the farthest would be the state qualifiers.
Several coaches and administrators at the meeting liked that proposed playoff format, according to Uemoto and Honokaa athletic director Keith Tolentino.
In other football news, as reported first by the Maui News, Molokai has scheduled two 11-man football games for 2019. The 8-man Farmers of the MIL will play at Nanakuli of the OIA on Aug. 3 and at home against Pahoa on Aug. 10.