The glamor and history of playing Aloha Stadium are big part of ILH football.
Or, was. ILH football coordinator Wendell Look was stunned by the news of the stadium’s closure on Thursday morning.
“It takes one of our main venues for the featured games out of play. It’s going to have a financial impact because you’re not going to get the amount of crowd that you’d like,” said Look, who is also co-athletic director and head football coach at ‘Iolani.
While many coaches have doubts about the public-school OIA having a football season — tentatively slated for March — the ILH has been prepared for any scenario.
None of them, though, included playing without Aloha Stadium, the Mecca of island football since its opening in 1976. But there is no plan for a state football tournament because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Look is still optimistic about an Open Division schedule involving teams from both leagues.
“Obviously, Kahuku has one of the top programs and their school facility can only hold so many people. The (stadium closure) is going to have an impact on that,” Look said.
The real possibility of all ILH games on home fields hasn’t existed in decades. Even before Aloha Stadium, old Honolulu Stadium drew massive crowds for prep football triple-headers.
“You talk to a lot of the coaches, they love playing at their school facilities. There’s a different vibe and the closeness in the school community, the pride that comes out when you play at a school site,” Look noted. “But you always want to play in Aloha as much as you can because of the turf, and the atmosphere is a little different.”
Punahou linebacker Kahanu Kia, who signed with Notre Dame on Wednesday, sees the pros and cons of home games at Alexander Field, which does not have stadium lighting.
“We could play at Punahou. We would have to play a lot of mid-day games. The last game we played there was so hot. It would be nice to play on the same field you practice on, but it would be super hot,” he said.
The alternative plan isn’t set in stone, but the ILH has the concept down.
“I think Plan B, we already have a schedule mechanics in place where we play at the school sites. That’s all. Some of the DOE venues that have turf might have to have doubleheaders. Might play a doubleheader on a Saturday and a single on Friday,” Look said.
With the HHSAA and OIA awaiting word from the Department of Health — coronavirus vaccines began nationwide distribution earlier in the week — the ILH was progressive. Even in the fall, there was a possibility of an all-ILH season if necessary.
“As administrators, we have to plan for the best-case scenario and the worst-case scenario. We have to think about it early. You can’t wait until the last minute,” Look said. “With more information from the state, the DOH, the DOE, we can make a better determination of the seasons.”
At this point, an ILH-only season is on the drawing board. That would include all six football programs, including Pac-Five. Saint Louis Coach Ron Lee mentioned the concept of multiple teams fielded by the league’s larger programs.
“Every program has declared they’re going to have a team. There’s a lot of layers left until we get to that point,” Look said. “A lot of decision-making and approvals until we get to that point.”
Look is already considering every alternative.
“I think, you know, you’ve got to look at the University of Hawaii,” he said, referring to Clarence T.C. Ching Field. “They could help us and accommodate and, hopefully, make that field available. There’s no harm in asking. You don’t ask, you don’t know. When we get to that bridge, we’ll cross it.”