David Tautofi confirmed Tuesday that he is returning to the Kaimuki Bulldogs as football coach.
That’s big news for Kaimuki. Tautofi was rumored to be leaving after the end of the season, and he said Tuesday that at one point he actually had decided to leave. But in the few weeks since the season ended, he changed his mind.
It was not an easy decision.
“I had a lot of discussion with family and prayer and consideration of what the future will look like,” Tautofi said. “There is still something that felt incomplete. There’s so much we’ve generated — getting the community involved and showing what a team can bring to the community. It’s just football, but the lives we’re fueling are really reflecting what’s going on in the community. By having community outreach and service projects, we’re getting these kids equipped and prepared for their future and learning about making better decisions. … Going for the things that they never dreamed would be possible. I felt a lot still needed to be done and completed. I thought it was going to be where I leave, but I felt a lot more stronger and at peace with the decision to come back.”
The Bulldogs finished 2019 with a 10-3 record. After winning the OIA Division II title, they were eliminated from the D-II semifinals of the First Hawaiian Bank/HHSAA Football State Championships on Nov. 23 in a 35-28 loss to Kapaa at Vidinha Stadium.
Tautofi has been a magician of sorts, consistently delivering a winning team despite extra low numbers. He had about 25 players for the game against Kapaa.
But Tuatofi, who took over at Kaimuki to start the 2015 season, is also open about some things that he is disappointed about concerning the lack of support and limited resources for Kaimuki players and the all students the school from the powers that be at the Department of Education.
According to Tautofi, Kaimuki has the most at-risk students in the state and that about 65 percent of its official total enrollment consists of dropouts and students who are chronically absent.
And, as the roster numbers suggest, players aren’t breaking the doors down to get on the team.
“I have to create reasons why kids should be out there playing football,” he said. “It’s not like most other places where people are lining up to play. This is not a hotbed for coaches to go, either. There’s not many coaches who would last three days here.”
Speculation of Tautofi walking away from the Kaimuki job started after a 33-17 victory over Kaiser in the OIA D-II semifinals. That’s when one of the Bulldogs, Matt Williams, hinted that this might be the coach’s last season, telling Honolulu Star-Advertiser reporter Paul Honda that the team wanted to give “Coach T. a proper farewell.”
Not long after that, Tautofi said, he made up his mind to leave. That sentiment didn’t last.
Tautofi has other big things going on his life. He became a father for the first time earlier this year when his son Deison was born.
Tautofi, who starred at Kaimuki as a two-way lineman and went on to play for UCLA, is 37-19 since coming back to coach at his alma mater, and he has brought the Bulldogs to the state tournament three times. Those 37 wins are the most in school history, one more than Lowell Cambra from 1978 to ’85.