Kaeo Drummondo is a man with many dreams.
The dilemma for the highly successful coach was a win-win either way: stay at Kamehameha as an assistant coach, or apply for the athletic director position at Hilo. Drummondo elected to put his name in the hat, and now, he succeeds Kurt Kawachi as the Vikings AD.
“If somebody told me this 12 months ago, I’d say, no way. It’s totally unexpected. When opportunity knocks, you’ve got to answer,” Drummondo said.
In April, Drummondo stepped down as head coach of the Hilo football team after leading the Viks to Division I state titles in 2017 and ’19. He returned to his home island, Oahu, and became defensive coordinator at Kamehameha.
“Grateful to Coach Abu (Ma‘afala) and Glennie (Adams, athletic director) and the staff for giving me the opportunity to come back to my alma mater,” Drummondo said.
He previously was in the Hawaii Island Police Department while assistant coaching at Hilo. He became head coach in 2016.
“It was a no-brainer for me. The totality of having the opportunity to have a fun-time job in athletics, day in, day out, having a positive influence in their lives,” Drummondo said. “I had a great career with HPD, enjoyed my job there, and I knew I would like to go into athletics full time.”
At 35, he still has the coaching itch.
“It’s tough. I’m passionate about coaching and I can’t actively coach, but there’s other avenues to positively affect our programs, work with the coaches, be in contact with the student athletes,” he said. “My home, my family are here. I’m looking forward to a new journey. I’m sure it’ll have its up and downs, but it’ll be fun.”
This spring, funding was appropriated for a stadium on campus, a process that will likely take three to five years. Former Hilo offensive coordinator Chris Todd, a state representative, is involved with the surge of funding for renovations and new facilities at public schools statewide. Hilo has been a prominent member of the Big Island Interscholastic Federation since its inception, but has always played home games at Dr. Francis Wong Stadium. The muddy conditions there have been a bit of a home-field advantage for the Vikings, but a well-drained synthetic surface on the new field will be cherished in rainy Hilo.
“That’s something looking forward to getting to. Next week, I’ll sit down with Coach Chris and other administrators and see everything going on with COVID. It’s a very exciting venture (in the) next three to five years. It will be a great day when we have it. The student-athletes deserve it, and our students in P.E. class will benefit, too,” Drummondo said.
His official start day is Monday.
“I spoke with some alumni and faculty members, and they’re very trusting. Mrs. Jasmin Urasaki, our principal, her belief and trust to provide me this opportunity, for me, it’s a privilege. I want to play a role and make a difference on campus, tying our athletics to everything. Discipline, character, translate that to any aspect of their life, they’ll be good community members,” he said.
The decision was huge for Drummondo’s family, particularly his wife, Julie. They became aware of Kawachi’s looming departure around the time Drummondo decided to go to Kamehameha.
“We had discussed it when I was resigning. At that point there were people who would fill in. In May, I’d been home working because of quarantine. My wife and I discussed it. She’s a Hilo alumni, so she’s very, very excited about it. My kids practically grew up on that field, so they’re excited about the possibility,” he said.
Drummondo has some action plans off the bat.
“First and foremost, certain things on campus I want to get done. With help of Kurt and our P.E. department, the school bought new equipment for the weight room. We weren’t able to finish that. We have the equipment in storage. I want to get started on that immediately. Besides execution on the field, the weight room is the biggest impact,” he said. “Ryan Taniguchi is our strength and training coach, and he’s also the wrestling coach. I want to get the weight room completed. The bars, the plates are being utilized. We have some racks we’ve got to assemble, and probably have to re-do the flooring. It’ll be exciting to put it all together. Our P.E. department will utilize it. It’ll be a brand new space to work out and train.”
Life as an administrator rather than a hands-on coach will be somewhat different.
“Other than that continue the work Kurt had started, I want to shoot some baskets, run around the field, just be there to support our coaches and their programs in any way we can. It’s interesting to reflect on my time coaching, and now in this position, it is difficult, but I’m happily taking this position,” Drummondo said. “There will be change, change is not always bad. It’ll be different and take some time to transition into. I want to find my niche with each program.”
That’s more than 30 athletic teams in blue and gold, in the midst of a global pandemic, statewide shutdowns and restrictions on coach-team training on and off campus. The enormity of rescheduling and tweaking is unprecedented for the BIIF’s decision makers.
“We all have to keep an open mind. As long as we delay and don’t rush any decisions now, that’s best for our student-athletes. We don’t have a choice but to push football a little further,” Drummondo said. “Football in March, April, May, are we going to get our equipment back for the following season, in time for the fall 2021 start? I don’t think that’s likely. We need to combine that together with the fact, if we end in April, are we bring back our kids in July? It’s interesting, a lot of tough decisions have to be made.”
For an expansive league that racks up $500 and $600 bus rental bills for cross-island game trips, looming budget cuts will be a major issue.
“The BIIF could consider because of budget cuts, transportation, all east and all west,” Drummondo said, referencing a period in the 1990s when the league played regional regular-season games. “We’re going to have to be creative, have open minds. Nothing’s going to be perfect.”