HHSAA works on Year 2 of 3-tier football system

Jalen Olomua put a stiff-arm on ‘Iolani's Kaua Nishigaya during the second half of the Trojans' 31-20 victory in the Division I state championship game Nov. 18, 2016, at Aloha Stadium. ‘Iolani declared for Division I when the three-tier 2016 state football pilot program began, but Mililani didn't know it was going into Division I until it lost an OIA quarterfinal playoff game. Jamm Aquino / Honolulu Star-Advertiser.
Jalen Olomua put a stiff-arm on ‘Iolani’s Kaua Nishigaya during the second half of the Trojans’ 31-20 victory in the Division I state championship game Nov. 18, 2016, at Aloha Stadium. ‘Iolani declared for Division I when the three-tier 2016 state football pilot program began, but Mililani didn’t know it was going into Division I until it lost an OIA quarterfinal playoff game. Jamm Aquino / Honolulu Star-Advertiser.

Hawaii’s three-tier football state tournament is likely to be kept for 2017 and beyond after being run on a pilot basis for 2016.

The Hawaii High School Athletic Association’s football committee has met twice this offseason to discuss ways to improve what turned out to be a successful pilot season in which Saint Louis, Mililani and Lahainaluna won the Open, Division I and D-II championships.

“The committee is discussing the size of the tournament divisions, the seeding formula and declarations (schools and leagues choosing which teams go in which division),” HHSAA executive director Chris Chun said. “They will meet one more time to come up with a proposal to submit at the (Hawaii Interscholastic Athletic Directors Association) meeting this summer.”

To become reality, any proposed changes to the tournament would have to be passed at HIADA and then approved by the HHSAA executive board.

Chun said Hawaii’s five leagues (the Interscholastic League of Honolulu, the Oahu Interscholastic Association, the Maui Interscholastic League, the Big Island Interscholastic Federation and the Kauai Interscholastic Federation) are working together to make the three-tier tournament a reality again for 2017.

Prior to the HHSAA football committee’s third meeting, which is scheduled for mid-April, the committee members will be getting feedback from the leagues on the possible format changes.

Last season, the Open and D-II tournaments had six teams each, with eight teams in D-I.

What Chun termed as “declarations” is an interesting topic. Due to the speed in which the pilot program was installed (in August of the 2016 regular season), some teams did not know which division they’d be playing in until their league seasons were nearly done. As an example of that, the OIA put its Division I quarterfinal winners in the state Open Division and its quarterfinal losers in the D-I states.

Requiring a declaration by all teams for one of the three divisions before the season starts is an obvious proposal possibility.

It was reported last month that the OIA, which has been a two-tier league for many years, is discussing changing to three tiers for 2018, presumably to align itself with state classification.

This three-tier trend is partly in response to numerous blowout games in the past few years, with obviously weaker teams playing regular-season games against perennial powerhouses.

Prior to the 2016 season, there had been a movement for the OIA and ILH to form an alliance in which the two leagues would combine to form a three-tier system that would feed into a three-tier state tournament. That proposal, which would have provided $1 million annually for the 29 football-playing high schools on Oahu, was passed unanimously by the ILH, but was not acted upon by the OIA.

According to sources close to the HHSAA football committee, that OIA-ILH alliance proposal has not been officially discussed since and it is not known whether or not a push for it will come in the future.


  1. Coach_B March 6, 2017 11:21 am

    Interesting developments. I really liked how the D1 state playoff worked out for the most part. Iolani had always been stuck in between the old D1 and D2 when it came to state playoffs, but quality games against Moanalua, Campbell, and Mililani showed that there is at least parity within the new D1. I also liked that Neighbor Island teams have a real chance of winning a state title since the powerhouse Oahu teams kind of have their own division now. It supports the quality and interest in the sport across the whole state if their is a realistic chance at winning a state title. Interesting to see if the OIA-ILH alliance plan gains traction this year…

  2. anywaaaays!! March 6, 2017 1:53 pm

    If you do 3 tier for football you need to do it for all the other sports as well, im sure Kahuku, Castle, Kailua, Campbell, Kapolei, Aiea, Leilehua and Kaiser etc.. would want a fair shot at winning a state title if their volleyball and soccer teams dropped down to D1 and let the traditional ILH powerhouses compete by them selves in open division….or are the ILH administrators satisfied with their domination in those sports and only football needs a 3 tier to allow all their ILH schools a shot at a state title? What a bunch of whiney crybabies.

  3. rrforlifebaby March 6, 2017 2:01 pm

    I kind of like the 3 tier state tournament myself. But, if an OIA-ILH alliance were to happen, then what would be the purpose of having a State Championship(especially and specifically for the Open Division). Unless the Open Division OIA-ILH alliance is split up into at least 2 sub-divisions…winners of both division meet in a winner take all scenario……or top 2 teams from both divisions play in a 4 team tourney?????…maybe 4 sub divisions and the 4 sub division champions meet in a 4 team tourney??? The only reason I”m leaving out the neighbor island teams from the Open Division is that none of them have been able to consistently match up with the “big boys”.

  4. ??? March 6, 2017 2:34 pm

    Campbell’s new D-coordinator “Mika Li’ili’i”
    is the best off-season hire…..

  5. Coach_B March 6, 2017 5:39 pm

    Good point about expanding the 3 tier format to other sports but realistically the OIA can make it happen by themselves. The ILH has followed the OIA’s lead for years in issues like this just because they know that the OIA has the votes to make almost any decision. The 3 tier system was probably an example of that. The ILH gained nothing from the new system because they would have a similar chance of winning the Open Division as they did winning the old D1. Iolani has historically dominated D2 but decided to move up to the D1 which was probably best for everyone because its a better competitive fit. ILH gained nothing but still went with the plan because the OIA wanted it

  6. The Rim March 6, 2017 5:58 pm

    I agree Coach B, the two top DI neighbor Island teams last year (Baldwin and Hilo) performed well and had their chances to advance to the second round. Exciting games in all three divisions.

  7. anywaaaays!! March 6, 2017 9:18 pm

    CoachB you are delusional. The ILH went from only having 1 team represent them in the post season, to 2 teams representing them in the post season (open div). Thats an increase of benefit by 50%. I dont know what you are smoking by saying the ILH see no benefits. You are one of those ILH elitists trying to be passive in your bias rule changes and suggestions.

    Its funny because this time last year after Kahuku beat St. Louis for the 2015 state title, all the talk from Cal Lee and the ILH was to unite the leagues so that the ILH can have a better season against more opponents to help their players get better. Now that Cal won this year the issue is not being discussed. #ElitistMentality

  8. Coach_B March 7, 2017 12:24 am

    If I’m delusional then what league has won the majority of D1/Open Division state titles? And what team won most of those titles? The answer would be Kahuku, but I assume you knew that already. If you are really that concerned about what “fairness” in the state playoff would be maybe you should look at the league where Kahuku has won 8 of the 18 HHSAA state titles and the OIA as a whole has won 10. If you were concerned about some school establishing some sort of STL-esque dynasty then maybe some parity within the OIA would be beneficial. Realistically were you expecting an Open Division with the 6 spots split 5/1 OIA/ILH? In all likelihood, the title game would probably still come down to Kahuku vs the ILH champ. I mean Punahou didn’t even make it out of the 1st round.

    If I really was biased wouldn’t I want to minimize the number of regular season games to protect my players from injuries? And explain to me how more games would only benefit ILH players and not the OIA players that they would’ve hypothetically played? Doesn’t competition improve everyone? I also figure you’re going to bring up recruiting, so I’m just going to point out that its a 2-way street on recruiting. Everyone knows that the ILH does it, some more than others. Mililani’s championship team probably had a half-dozen out of district players start. Where’s Malepeai, Timoteo, and Agasiva from? What about the kid Olomua who’s on their team now? What about Sasaoka transferring from Farrington to Kahuku? What about Uahinui transferring to Farrington. All examples aren’t equal but its something to think about before blindly bashing the ILH. I personally respect Iolani way more than any other ILH team just because they minimize their recruiting and generally overachieve through quality coaching and stability. Maybe if Kahuku tried that approach instead of changing coaches every other year they might be able to stay at the top of the pack so we can stop hearing people make excuses for the terrible administrative stability over there

  9. Mahatma Gandhi March 7, 2017 3:48 am

    Coach_B, Iolani obviously has focused their recruiting efforts on basketball. All you need in basketball is 2 dominant players. Football you need an entire team. Iolani does recruit in football, just enough to be able to win the Div 2 championship every year. Just so they brag on their school website how they were state football champions. No mainlanders know the difference between Div 1 and Div 2. On the mainland, it’s the Div 4 teams that are the best and that have the largest enrollments.
    I was reading the bios of some former Mililani football players on their current college team’s website. WR Kainoa Wilson lists his hometown as Nanakuli. Former star QB McKenzie Milton lists his hometown as Kapolei. Star DL man Rex Manu, now at Oregon, lists Waianae as his hometown. Utah’s website says Jordan Agasiva played his 9th and 10th grade years at Farrington.

  10. phILHarmonic March 7, 2017 10:23 am

    My daughter plays basketball for a Club.
    There are some private school players on the Club.
    Some of the parents are Alumni of those private schools.
    One of them says, ” your daughter is really good, have you taken the test for *insert private school here*, or thought about it?”
    We fill out application, schedule SSAT and contact BB Coach at *insert private school here*.
    The coach takes us on a tour of the school. Tells us that our daughter has to gain admission into the school before any financial conversations can be had. We must apply for financial aid and will be awarded based on our family income.
    Our daughter made it in, we applied for FA and was awarded a little less than half the tuition.
    We pay 12,000.00 for her to attend *insert private school here*.
    Wife and I get a second job each, we sell a bunch of stuff, cut out some bills, never travel for vacation and are about to downsize to an apartment to continue to make this happen.

    Is this considered recruiting? I hear that this is the normal process for majority of the talented kids families that end up at the private schools. Sounds pretty tough.

  11. Coach_B March 7, 2017 12:24 pm

    @Ghandi No doubt Iolani recruits more for basketball. I’m not even going to try to argue with that. I totally agree with what you are saying. My point was more about football though. Iolani has at least as many resources as STL in terms of school size and financial resources. They could realistically recruit to a comparable level to Punahou if they really wanted to sell out and go all in on football, but my point was that they don’t and instead try to compete at the ILH D1 level with less talent than every other school. That is commendable and I respect them even more because they play some of those games pretty close when considering the difference in talent. As for your points about fmr. Mililani players, that’s exactly what I meant. All of those great players played out of district, which some would consider cheating. If the argument against ILH schools is that they aren’t limited to a geographic area for their talent, then wouldn’t a handful of OIA powerhouses also guilty?

  12. Education First March 7, 2017 12:34 pm

    @phILHarmonic. This is the norm for many families who want their children to attend a private school. I applaud you for making sacrifices for what you think may help your child in the future. I understand that the finances, even with the help in the form of financial aid is still tough.

    It’s insulting that many naive people think all these ILH schools are just going to throw out money to win some high school sport games. They do not understand the operating costs with running a school. There is only so much money to go around.

    Most families, even those with kids who can play sports make HUGE sacrifices for their kids. Then they will hear or read about ignorant comments about recruiting, how their kids belongs to a certain community since they live there, and ILH conspiracies even though each leagues have an equal vote.

  13. anywaaaays!! March 7, 2017 2:10 pm

    philmonic, I send nothing but the best of wishes for you and your child in pursuing private school aka higher education.

    But you just confirmed the accusations I been making in previous articles about the ILH alumni doing all the recruting for their schools. They approached you about your childs basketball abilities. The basketball coach didnt recruit you, the alumni recruited you. They didnt ask you to apply at the ILH school because your child is smart in math or gifted in science. They dont want you to become a part of their private school ohana because they really like your personality, they only want your childs basketball skills so that they can all feel good at games knowing that the team is stacked with talent. #ElitistMentality

    Nothing wrong with this ILH alumni recruiting for their ILH schools. I dont care. More power to the ILH schools and the local familys. What I have adamantly opposed is the idea that the ILH schools who think that the playing field is level in football and want to unite season games with the OIA.

    The playing field is not level. Keep the ILH in their own 4 team league against other private schools that have the same resources. The fact that Kahuku won 8 state titles with their limited resources doesnt mean that things need to change. What needs to change is the other OIA schools need to get better.

    This AYSO mentality of “EVERYONE GETS A TROPHY” so lets create 3 tiers is ridiculous! Why stop at football? Lets do 3 tiers in all sports. The ILH dominate all the other sports so thats why nothings going to be changed. Kahuku dominating football the past 15 years is concern for Cal Lee and all the ILH alumni because when they are not winning their egos are hurt and their recruiting sales pitch to local familys isnt as strong.

  14. phILHarmonic March 7, 2017 2:57 pm

    Thank you for the well wishes.

    Im not really concerned about them not wanting our fam to be a part of their ohana. Im just focused on my child. My daughters athletic prowess is our “in” to better education, opportunities, networking and exposure to colleges. We do this so that a college will say ” I want your daughter to come and play for us and we will pay for her education”. I dont care if that college wants us to be a part of their ohana, just as long as they take care my daughter, and give her a chance to earn a degree.

    You are probably right about keeping the OIA and ILH separated until the OIA can get their stuff together. There are schools in the OIA that have #ElitisMentality issues that have created an uneven playing field there. Let them meet up in the States.

    In my opinion, the 3 tiers were created to have equal match-ups and more competitive games. I feel like it worked. The two best teams, I feel, made it to the championship for every tier. I really enjoyed watching equally talented teams play each other. I dont enjoy 75%of the OIA regular season games because they are just blowouts. With the new format, they would place teams in appropriate tiers where they can compete. I like that idea.

    There has been an increase of St. Louis Stickers on vehicles and Sweater sightings since the Championship game. Just an observation.

  15. Coach_B March 7, 2017 3:40 pm

    @phILHarmonic I also wanna send well wishes to you and your family. Seeking higher education is something we all support.

    I also think that you get what I’ve been trying to say. 3 tiers is beneficial at the state playoff level because more parity means more competitive games. I never really thought that the goal of the new system was to buy into the AYSO mentality. Realistically teams like Baldwin and Hilo never had a shot at a D1 title in the old system. More games with competitive match ups should be welcomed because its better for the kids playing who now have something to realistically play for. That’s why an ILH-OIA regular season isn’t as ridiculous to me as it may seem for others. Who realistically thinks that Kahuku vs. Castle is a competitive matchup? I’d venture to say that Kahuku’s only real rival in its division is Waianae and maybe Campbell. If Kahuku is going to go to the mainland to play powerhouses like Bishop Gorman, then why not play the ILH? If you think you’re the best, play the best, even if you think its unfair. You already play them in the playoffs anyways… why not in the regular season?

  16. anywaaaays!! March 7, 2017 4:44 pm

    There has been an increase of St. Louis Stickers on vehicles and Sweater sightings since the Championship game. Just an observation

    EXACTLY! The more STL wins the better their brand becomes – the more donations, funding and enrollment increases. Wasnt it just a few years ago that STL was in talks of shutting down because of low numbers (enrollment and financials)? The alumni stepped in and took control, hired Glen Medeiros as President, Brought the recruiting master Cal Lee back and now June Jones is on staff. Football is the lifeline of that STL program. I can respect the system that STL and the entire ILH conference offer to talented athletes and helping them reach elite national levels but stay in your own lane. Dont use the OIA as jumping boards for their players and their coaching careers.

    The ILH and especially STL will do nothing unless it benefit their bottom line. This 3 tier system for football is only happening because it gives the ILH more berths into the tourney. 3 of the 4 D1 schools are now in the tourney.

  17. Coach_B March 7, 2017 8:24 pm

    Simple questions. Would you rather have Iolani win every year as a state playoff D2 school or have them play competitively against Mililani and Campbell as a D1 school? How many more OIA schools get into this new system? Why would the OIA accept this system if it didn’t benefit them as well? There’s two sides of every argument. Sure it may benefit the ILH, but I don’t think the OIA directors are idiots that are just pandering to the ILH. They have ALL the leverage

  18. anywaaaays!! March 7, 2017 8:59 pm

    CB you have a very clear understanding what is going on, so for you to blatantly lie in your first post that the ILH gains nothing and is just conforming with the OIA, but crumble and admit in a later post that the ILH does infact benefit after I spit the facts, is very troubling to me because it is people like you who are ILH bias (or even ILH alumni) running the system. People with that mentality tell white lies to make the public think they are going to benefit but really they have their own agendas for their own benefits which are greater then the publics. In this case the ILH stands to benefit more then the OIA.

  19. anywaaaays!! March 7, 2017 10:01 pm

    Simple questions. Would you rather have Iolani win every year as a state playoff D2 school or have them play competitively against Mililani and Campbell as a D1 school?

    This is such a stupid question, not that you asked it but that it is even a question. First of all let me establish that Mililani and Campbell are both BIG DOG football programs. Campbell has the largest student body in the OIA and is consistently in the top 6 of the 14 D1 OIA schools, they eliminated Kahuku from the playoffs 4 years ago and might even be in the top 4 OIA teams this coming year. Miliani had multiple finals appearances and won it all 2 years ago. If Iolani can be competitive with these two OIA power houses then Iolani belongs in the open division because Rod York even admitted that his MILL team is an open div team, it was a stupid rule by the HHSAA to allow the #5 and #6 OIA team (MILL/CAMP) to drop down into the (tier 2) D1 state tourney. MILL/CAMP seasons should have ended after not qualifying for the open division because they are open division caliber football programs.

    So these simple facts establishes that Iolani is a true (open division) football program. Iolani is crying because they cant handle the ILH D1 conference. They are a rich private school that can recruit just like how STL/PUN recruit, those are the cards that Iolani have been dealt so deal with it.

    The simple truth is this…Kahuku is the king of the OIA and the OIA admins want so badly to get Kahuku out of the picture. So they create the open division for Kahuku to compete in and then try to keep as much of the rest of OIA D1 teams in the tier 2 tourney to compete for a title…while trying as hard as possible for these schools in the tier 2 division not to feel bad so they kept the name “D1 State Championship” when infact it should be D2 state title, and the current D2 should be “D3 state title”. This answers your statement about why the OIA is willing to negotiate with the HHSAA.

    Whats happening is the OIA and HHSAA is trying to manufacture post season matchups based on who is the weak teams at the moment, even if it means that we can drop Mililani into the lower tiers so they can have a shot at a title, which Mililani successfully did but Rod York is a purest and he basically told the HHSAA…..”This D1 title isnt a real title, we wanted the open div title”.

  20. Coach_B March 8, 2017 9:44 am

    Ok don’t listen to what I say. That’s fine with me. No sense in me wasting my time trying to debate with you. How about you tell me what you think the best plan would be? If you could have your way, what would you change and why? I’d like to understand where you’re coming from.

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