The Oahu Interscholastic Association will be participating in the new state football format this fall, according to a release sent to the league’s member schools by executive director Ray Fujino on Tuesday night.
In the short release, the league announced its support of the tournament for this year and this year only. The league will discuss the merits of the concept and make recommendations after the season.
Last week, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser learned that the OIA was considering not participating in the state football tournament when it obtained a letter dated Sept. 6 and signed by OIA president Wade Araki to Hawaii High School Athletic Association executive director Chris Chun. In the letter, the OIA spelled out nine concerns. Chun, whose organization oversees all of Hawaii’s high school state tournaments, responded with a Sept. 9 letter addressing those concerns.
The OIA member schools’ principals and athletic directors met on Tuesday to discuss the issue and, according to sources and backed up by Fujino’s statement in the release, voted to participate in the states after all.
On Aug. 22, the HHSAA executive board, which is comprised of members of all five Hawaii leagues (OIA, Interscholastic League of Honolulu, Maui Interscholastic League, Big Island Interscholastic Federation and Kauai Interscholastic Federation), voted to change the state football tournament from two divisions to three. An Open division was added as the top tier, with Division I and II remaining intact.
Araki, in his letter to Chun, wondered why the Open division would be considered a “true” state championship, since only the OIA and the ILH would be participating. Possible noncompliance with Title IX was also an OIA concern, since the new format brings the total amount of teams participating in state football — primarily a boys sport — up to 20 from 12. Another concern was an apparent departure from the state qualification formula, which gives berths to leagues proportionate to the amount of teams within a league. The OIA, with 22 teams to the ILH’s seven, thought the formula was not being used, since two teams from the ILH will make the Open division compared to four from the OIA.
Apparently, Chun’s responses were good enough for the OIA to decide to take part in the football format pilot program.
Sources with OIA and HHSAA ties have previously told the Star-Advertiser that there are three factions within the OIA: those against the new format, those for it and those in the middle.
Those sources have also said that those who are against it believe the ILH has an unfair advantage in all sports by offering financial packages at upscale private schools with enticing facilities to student-athletes. That concern, however, was not addressed in Araki’s letter.