All is not ruined for Hawaii after Saint Louis opted out of an invitation on Wednesday to a national bowl game to be televised on ESPNU.
According to Rashid Ghazi of Paragon Marketing Group, the creator of the GEICO Bowl Series, there is still interest in bringing a Hawaii team to Phoenix for the event in the future.
“We wish Saint Louis nothing but the best,” Ghazi said Thursday in a cellphone message to Hawaii Prep World. “Hopefully one time we can get a Hawaii team in the Bowl Series.”
Ghazi did say it might be tougher in general for any team in any state in the future to get into the Bowl Series.
“The biggest challenge is as the event grows and more states opt in, it gets harder for teams to get an invitation,” Ghazi said. “I have a lot of respect for (Hawaii High School Athletic Association athletic director) Chris Chun. “We still want to work with Hawaii.”
Since September, Ghazi and his company were in negotiations with Chun to bring a Hawaii team to Phoenix for the event. There was some kind of agreement among the three parties — the HHSAA, the Bowl Series and Saint Louis for the Crusaders to participate. Hawaii Prep World broke the news that Saint Louis made a decision to not accept the invitation Wednesday morning.
However, on Thursday morning, Saint Louis president Glenn Medeiros refuted a report that the Crusaders broke an agreement when they opted out.
“We agreed to terms (in writing), but only if we were to say yes to going on the trip,” Medeiros said. “We didn’t see it as a binding document. We read it like an ‘if we were to go’ kind of thing. I realize it could be construed another way and that there is room for interpretation.”
Wednesday evening, after the news of Saint Louis’ decision broke, Ghazi sent a statement to Hawaii Prep World saying that Saint Louis had agreed to play in the event. He was also quoted in USA Today, saying the same thing.
Medeiros also said Thursday that most of the feedback he’s been getting from students and parents on campus since the decision has been positive. He also reiterated that it was a decision made by a team of school administrators based on what they felt was in the best interest of the students.
“Coaches Cal and Ron Lee were very supportive of the decision,” he said. “Once we won the state championship game (38-17 over Mililani on Saturday at Aloha Stadium, their 26th straight win to finish the season 11-0), we sat down at Big City Diner for lunch to discuss the pros and cons. There were many good reasons to go to a bowl game, but we thought it would be better to not go.”
Among the many reasons Saint Louis gave on Wednesday were that Dec. 22 is finals week, that players are already involved in other sports that have already begun, and that families of players have already planned other vacations for that time period.
“If this was a real national championship game, we would have gone out of our way to try and make it happen,” Medeiros said Thursday. “It is a bowl game, but it’s really an exhibition game. In my mind anyway, it’s an exhibition game.”
Originally, only 75 Crusaders players or coaches and staff would have had all of their expenses paid. Medeiros estimates the squad is 93 players and 20 staff. That number of paid spots was negotiated up to at least 100 and one source said all 113 people in the traveling party would have been taken care of.
Had they accepted the invitation, Saint Louis would have received money — either $15,000 or $6,000 — or $20,000 in equipment. Which of the those three would have been up to the event organizers.
Four teams will be picked for the Geico Bowl Series doubleheader out of six state champions from Arizona, Utah, Florida, Washington, Maryland and Georgia. Most states crown their champions in December.