After two years of playing against Division I football competition, ‘Iolani is going down to Division II in the Interscholastic League of Honolulu, Raiders coach Wendell Look confirmed Friday.
In addition, Look said that ‘Iolani has declared itself a D-II team for the state tournament. D-II is the bottom level of the new three-tier state tourney system.
“Division II is what’s best for our program at this time,” Look said. “Two years is enough at the D-I level. We had the physical size and maybe not the depth. Now, this year, we’re back to a normal ‘Iolani team. We’re thin in size and in depth.”
When there were only two divisions at the state tournament (before the HHSAA added Open to D-I and D-II last year), ‘Iolani was dominant in D-II, winning eight state titles out of 12 chances.
Two years ago, the Raiders moved up due to an ILH rule stating that a D-II team winning two league or state titles in a row must go up to D-I.
At the time, Look thought about appealing that rule, but instead let the players make the decision, and they wound up voting for D-I in both years.
The decision went to the players again this year and they chose D-II for 2017.
“We talked to the kids and they’re not dumb,” Look said. “They know what this team is about. They know what it’s like to play at the D-I level. They’re being realistic about the makeup of this team.”
Since 2010, the Raiders are 48-33 overall, but just 7-32 against D-I competition statewide.
Look knows ‘Iolani’s decision to play at the D-II level will rankle some people.
“I was criticized by my own league last year, when we were placed in Division I for the states (the only ILH team classified there in the new pilot program). I had no say in it. They said it was unfair.”
Division I at the state level did appear to be the right place for the Raiders, though, and it seemed to some that they were finally where they belonged (since they used to dominate in D-II and get dominated in D-I but would no longer have to face many D-I teams now playing up in the Open Division).
Sure enough, ‘Iolani made it all the way to the D-I state final, where it lost 31-20 to Mililani.
But Look said that if ‘Iolani plays a D-II schedule, then he believes they should be classified in D-II for state tournament purposes.
“For those people who think we should play in D-I, they’re not in my shoes,” Look said. “Tell them to come stand in my shoes.
“The three-tier state tournament is a great concept, but the best case is if we have a three-tier regular season with a merged ILH and Oahu Interscholastic Association, too,” he said.
There was a push for that alliance prior to the 2016 season, but it was never voted on by the HHSAA. It remains to be seen if a proposal for an OIA-ILH alliance is brought up again.
“There are more coaches who want it than don’t,” Look said. “Imagine the possibilities that could occur — great matchups every week in three different divisions. And, with more interest in each game, it would be a lot better financially.”
There are other coaches and athletic directors who do not want such an alliance, but, for the most part, they do not go on the record against it.
Although he didn’t say he was for it or against it, OIA football coordinator Harold Tanaka said in February that he doesn’t think the state is ready for it.
At that time, Tanaka also said he thinks the OIA should eventually switch from two to three divisions, but that it would not be on the table until 2018.
The Hawaii High School Athletic Association football committee, of which Tanaka is a member, is set to meet this month to finalize a state football proposal (for Year 2 of the the three-tier system) to bring to the Hawaii Interscholastic Athletic Directors Association meeting in June.
HHSAA executive director Chris Chun said last month the football committee is concentrating on a proposal that may tweak “the size of the tournament divisions, the seeding formula and declarations (schools and leagues choosing which teams go in which division).”