OIA-ILH alliance ready to kick into gear

The ILH and OIA came together in 2018 to make a two-year pilot program of an integrated football schedule between the leagues. The major players involved in this detente are OIA executive director Ray Fujino, former HHSAA executive director Keith Amemiya, who announced his bid for mayor on Tuesday, and ILH executive director Blane Gaison. Photo by Cindy Ellen Russell/Star-Advertiser.

Sunday’s Honolulu Star-Advertiser features a four-page OIA-ILH football alliance pullout section.

The landmark agreement that was announced in the Star-Advertiser in the Feb. 13 edition will become a reality starting Aug. 10.

It is also available online to read by clicking here to find out the history of the sometimes contentious relationship between the two leagues and how they sorted it out to bring Hawaii high school football fans what promises to be top-notch games every week of the season in three divisions of equitable competition.

One of the many hopes is that blowouts in regular season games will, for the most part, become a thing of the past.

Here, you can find some extra content not found in the newspaper:

>> A video showing what the major players in the deal have to say about it.
>> Positive remarks from many coaches and other members of the community.
>> Excerpts from Honolulu Star-Bulletin and Honolulu Advertiser archives concerning the rocky breakup of the ILH in 1970 and the aftermath.
>> A timeline of the key moments in the history of Hawaii High School football leading up this historic agreement.


Forty-two people were asked for their views about the OIA-ILH football alliance. Here are some of the responses:

>> Jim Leahey (retired UH sports broadcaster): “High school football has a chance to return to prominence. UH hasn’t had a winning season in seven years. UH (has a hard time) recruiting top Division I athletes. High school football was No. 1 back then (pre-1970) and it has a chance to be No. 1 again.”

>> Leahey: “It’s about time. … It was a perceived kind of thing that the public schools were inferior. And now, the public schools have come on. They have an elite group of teams that can deal with anything the private schools throw at them. Over the years, there were so many people in the same positions of authority in both leagues that didn’t like each other. There was personality conflict there. They were stubborn.”

>> Kale Ane (Punahou coach and athletic director): “I never thought it would happen in my lifetime and it’s getting pretty close. I’m a young 65.”

>> Duane Kurisu (part owner of the Honolulu Star-Advertiser who is part of former HHSAA executive Keith Amemiya’s fundraising team): “Keith did all the heavy lifting. I follow his lead. It’s about the fun of renewed rivalries in sports, but more importantly I think that the OIA-ILH football agreement will set the tone for building a new education culture in Hawaii.”

>> Bryson Carvalho (Waipahu coach): “I know we coaches voted unanimously for a three-tiered (OIA) system a year ago. I think adding the interleague games in with the rest of our season schedule is genius. It makes things so much more competitive for all teams. It adds games for the ILH, and it allows for more games so it’s a win-win all around. If you look at the teams in all three divisions, there should be great football games played every week in every division. That’s exciting for everyone.”

>> Pat Silva (McKinley coach): “It does bring back the old rivalries from the past and makes for some exciting football during the season with the big matchups in each division. The OIA D-II level is very competitive and the inclusion of St. Francis and Pac-Five in this season’s schedule will make it even more competitive. Looking forward to the season ahead.”

>> Kip Botelho (Pac-Five coach): “It’s great that the two leagues got together and made it happen. It just makes sense on so many levels. Aside from all the obvious benefits of better matchups, renewed fan interest and reducing the safety concerns, the fact that we are getting more games is huge. This is the best thing for our league. We now will be playing a full nine-game schedule as opposed to our current four-game regular-season schedule. Just this in itself is a major benefit for the players.”

>> Harold Tanaka (Farrington athletic director, OIA football coordinator): “I feel this is going to be great for both leagues. It will bring new interest with the new competition. I’m hoping it brings larger crowds.”

>> Wendell Look (‘Iolani athletic director and football coach): “A lot of credit goes to the OIA administrators who were looking out for student-athletes and doing what’s best for them. You can’t fault their reasons and the feelings they’ve had in the past. Times have changed.”

>> Kili Watson (Nanakuli coach): “It will be a season filled with awesome matchups at all three levels.”

>> Mark Kurisu, Leilehua coach: “There will be no easy game in any division.”

>> Mike Irish (sports booster and business owner who played football for Kalani in 1969 — before the public schools bailed out of the ILH — and in 1970 after the exodus): “In 1970, when we played our games against Kahuku and Kailua and others, it didn’t have the same excitement as playing in town against Punahou or Kamehameha. It was a strange feeling to have to go all the way to their school campuses.”

WHAT “WAS” SAID (archival excerpts)

In a June 24, 2001, Honolulu Star-Bulletin article, Dave Reardon wrote about that contentious time three decades earlier, with quotes from some of the coaches and administrators from that era:

>> Reardon: “(In 1970), Farrington, Kaimuki, Kalani, McKinley and Roosevelt left (the ILH). Private schools Damien, ‘Iolani, Kamehameha, Punahou and St. Louis remained, soon to be joined by Pac-Five, a conglomerate of smaller private schools. In many ways, it signaled the beginning of the end of a golden era for high school football in Hawaii. No more public school-private school rivalries like Kamehameha vs. Farrington and Roosevelt vs. Punahou. And, in a few short years, no more Friday battles for school and community pride at Honolulu Stadium in Moiliili, now the site of a peaceful park.”

>> Cal Chai (former Kamehameha football coach): “There was a lot of finger-pointing going on. The public schools were really upset about recruiting. The breakup really hurt the ILH. There weren’t many schools in the league to begin with.”

>> Clay Benham (former ILH head): “We had many meetings to try to dissuade them from leaving, but to no avail.”

>> Larry Ginoza (former Waianae coach): “The thing was up in the air for a few years and came to a head over recruiting. Somebody got a (public school) principal teed off and it went from there.”


A Jan. 22, 1970, Honolulu Advertiser article by Dan McGuire headlined “Public schools join OIA to complete ILH revolt” contains these nuggets of history:

>> “Honolulu’s traditional Thanksgiving Day football doubleheader at (Honolulu) Stadium next November will be either an all-public or all-private school affair. The split between public and private schools of the Interscholastic League of Honolulu became irrevocable when the five public institutions — Roosevelt, Farrington, McKinley, Kaimuki and Kalani — were accepted as members of the Oahu Interscholastic Association yesterday.”

>> “Hanging high and dry are the five Honolulu private schools — Kamehameha, Punahou, Saint Louis, ‘Iolani and Damien —- although they will try to work out schedules that will continue ILH competition.”

>> “(The private schools of the ILH) made a bid for OIA membership but were turned down in favor of the public group.”

>> “Toshi Nakasone, principal of Aiea High School and president of the OIA, said each school will play a seven-game league schedule plus two or three preseason games ‘which will permit continuance of rivalries with the private schools.’ ”

“Nakasone pointed out that the OIA had been working on reorganization plans for the past year. ‘We had nothing to do with the ILH split. We were working on the inclusion of an 11th school — Nanakuli — in our scheduling and also had discussed the possibility of membership by other new public schools on Oahu.’ ”


A Honolulu Star-Bulletin story by Bill Kwon on Jan. 23, 1970, gave readers this perspective:

>> “Well, it’s now official. Oahu’s public high schools banded to form a sensible and equitable two-division league. Who said it couldn’t be done? Admittedly, the merger came with dramatic swiftness which very few foresaw, even though there had been talk about it for years. It’s much like going to a dentist. You put it off for as long as you can, but once you get it over with there’s a satisfying relief. Continuing the metaphor, there’s a gaping wound after a dentist’s visit — and that’s what the bruised relationship with the private schools is — a gaping wound. Only time will heal it, although it’s painful at the moment.”

In a Honolulu Advertiser story by Wes Nakama on Aug. 27, 2004, ILH head Don Botelho and OIA director Dwight Toyama talked about their enthusiasm for the start of what were called “crossover games,” thus showing that the leagues were cooperating as much as possible at that time:

>> Toyama: “Overall, I think it’s going to help all programs. People kept talking about old rivalries, and this is one way to satisfy public interest and provide more exposure for our kids. Also, hopefully it’ll generate more revenue because these are games people would want to see. … People have the perception that (the leagues) don’t get along, but we do. We can work together.”

>> Botelho: “When Dwight called me after last season and proposed (interleague play), I was very interested. Trying to find nonleague games … was getting tougher and tougher, so this helps everybody get a decent schedule. Most of us are excited about it, and hopefully this will lead to bringing back the interest in high school football. … I think the relationship (between the OIA and ILH) is really good now.”


>> 1890: Football is introduced on Oahu by Oahu College (later renamed Punahou) professor J.G. Wood.

>> 1897: The first sanctioned high school football game is held — Punahou vs. Honolulu High (later renamed McKinley).

>> 1903: Kamehameha, Punahou and Honolulu High form a three-team league.

>> 1909: The ILH is formed. The College of Hawaii (later renamed the University of Hawaii) participated in it for 10 years, but not as an official member.

>> 1919: The Honolulu Military Academy joins the ILH.

>> 1924: The Honolulu Military Academy leaves the ILH.

>> 1924: Saint Louis joins the ILH.

>> 1931: Leilehua plays as an associate member of the ILH through 1938.

>> 1932: Roosevelt joins the ILH.

>> 1936: ‘Iolani joins the ILH (but suspends its participation during World War II and re-enters in 1945).

>> 1938: Farrington joins the ILH.

>> 1940: The Rural Oahu Interscholastic Association is formed with Benjamin Parker (later renamed Castle), Kahuku, Leilehua, Waialua and Waipahu.

>> 1944: Kaimuki joins the ILH.

>> 1948: The ROIA applies for but is denied membership in the ILH.

>> 1949: The ROIA applies for a second time but is denied membership in the ILH.

>> 1951-1955: Koolau Boys School and Honolulu Vocational play two seasons each in the ROIA.

>> 1955: Kailua joins the ROIA.

>> 1958: Radford and Waianae join the ROIA.

>> 1960: Kalani joins the ILH.

>> 1962: Aiea joins the ROIA.

>> 1963: Campbell joins the ROIA.

>> 1966: Damien joins the ILH.

>> 1969: Nanakuli joins the ROIA.

>> 1970: Five ILH schools (Farrington, Kaimuki, Kalani, McKinley, Roosevelt) leave to join what will now be called the OIA (joining Aiea, Castle, Campbell, Kahuku, Kailua, Leilehua, Nanakuli, Radford, Waialua, Waianae and Waipahu). The remaining ILH schools are Damien, ‘Iolani, Kamehameha, Punahou and Saint Louis. The two leagues are free to schedule early season interleague games.

>> 1971: Kaiser joins the OIA.

>> 1972: Moanalua and Pearl City join the OIA.

>> 1972: The HUMMERS, a combined team of players from Hawaii Baptist, University, Maryknoll and Mid-Pacific, is formed to play in the ILH.

>> 1973: Our Redeemer Lutheran Schools join the HUMMERS and the team name is changed to Pac-Five.

>> 1973: Kalaheo joins the OIA.

>> 1973: The annual Oahu Prep Bowl is created, with the ILH champion facing the OIA champion for an overall title.

>> 1974: Mililani joins the OIA.

>> 1998: The last Oahu Prep Bowl is held.

>> 1999: The first state football tournament is held.

>> 2001: Due to some severely lopsided scores, the ILH breaks into two divisions, with Kamehameha, Punahou and Saint Louis in Division I, and Damien, ‘Iolani and Pac-Five in D-II.

>> 2002: Kapolei joins the OIA.

>> 2003: For the first time, all five Hawaii leagues classify their teams for Division I or D-II and a two-tiered state-tournament begins.

>> 2004: The OIA and ILH agree to allow teams to play multiple crossover (interleague) games per season.

>> 2006: Anuenue joins the OIA.

>> 2008: Word of Life joins the ILH.

>> 2009: Word of Life’s last season in the ILH.

>> 2011: The last year of OIA-ILH crossover games; select interleague games continue.

>> 2013: St. Francis joins the ILH.

>> 2015: Anuenue’s last season of varsity football in the OIA.

>> 2016: OIA-ILH alliance is proposed and passed by the ILH but voted down by the OIA.

>> 2016: HHSAA executive board votes to divide the state tournament into three divisions — Open, Division I and D-II — for a one-year pilot program.

>> 2017: The HHSAA votes to continue the three-tiered state tournament, but the OIA makes a political stand and announces it will only participate in two.

>> 2017: The HHSAA reduces the number of teams in the three-tiered state tournament from 20 to 12 (from six to four in Open, from eight to four in D-I, and from six to four in D-II).

>> 2017: The state tournament tripleheader at Aloha Stadium finishes at 1 a.m. on a Sunday morning after giving fans thrilling games in Open (Saint Louis’ 31-28 back-and-forth, last-second win over Kahuku) and D-II (Lahainaluna’s 76-69, seven-overtime victory over Konawaena).

>> Feb. 13, 2018: News of the OIA-ILH alliance breaks in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser.

Sources: Island Football Magazine, Honolulu Advertiser and Honolulu Star-Bulletin archives.


  1. 88 July 22, 2018 2:57 pm

    This is great for us fans. Games will be competitive. But this is going to take its toll on our kids. But hey fu@k’em right, as long as us adults can cheer and brag at work about our schools fu@k the kids…

  2. Awrite!! July 22, 2018 9:54 pm

    ^^ You sound like the disgruntled Education 1st poster. LOL, back at it again stealing other peoples usernames. NO LIFE!

    The biggest benefactors in all this is the Privately funded ILH schools who need more teams to play in order to justify the High tuition of their paying students and High salary staff members.

    The OIA kids get to be used as punching bags. Look at the history of ILH vs OIA! Mililani was able to hang with the ILH for one year, Kahuku is the only team to be competitive with the ILH consistently.

    This alliance is a sham! Made to look like a good thing when in fact the biggest winners are the ILH “for profit” institutions.

  3. anywaaaays!! July 23, 2018 11:39 am

    This is a sham of an “alliance” meant to only tire out our kids before the state finals. The ILH KNOWS they can’t compete with kahuku and so they do this to increase exposure for their schools and steal our children from our backyards and turn them into ILH football mercenaries. It’s a shame that the OIA sold us out. Shame on everyone for buying into the ILH Agenda at the expense of our keiki.

  4. Awrite!! July 23, 2018 12:35 pm

    ^^ Yup, it is the Punahou Grad and vagabond loner “Education 1st” trying to disguise as a OIA/Kahuku fan, he is the only poster that uses the word “mercenaries” Hahaha! Multiple personality disorder. LOL!

  5. TooMeke July 24, 2018 9:48 am

    Some comments no make sense…

    – ILH schools playing SAME schedule as OIA schools…AT da OIA schools (except St LuLu…who magically managed to get their game vs Big Red at the stadium…but I digress).

    – Boys playing against better competition more often = greater improvement = better performances at off-season camps = more exposure = etc, etc, etc. Duh.

    How about we just sit on da sidelines and support?


  6. Concerned Football Fan July 24, 2018 10:45 am

    Why the hell is Keith Amemiya in the middle of the picture. Shouldn’t it be Fujino, CHRIS CHUN, and Gaison? Keith Amemiya has been out as HHSAA director for almost a decade. If I was Chris Chun I would feel disrespected by this scumbag stealing the spotlight. One thing about Keith is that he loves him some Keith. Always the first one to be in pictures or be in interviews taking credit for whatever is done. His claim to fame is talking about raising 1.5 Mill for the save our sports campaign but raising 1.5 mill in “pledges” is way different than raising a legit 1.5 Mill and from as far as I know, $1.5 Mill was never put into the OIA accounts so that whole thing is a giant fraud. Now this “i united the leagues” crap. He didnt do jack shit and you media people are crediting him. Once again him and Kurisu are talking about “PLEDGES”. I can pledge $200,000 but that doesn’t mean you gonna smell a dollar of it. I would be impressed if I seen that $2 Mill he’s talking about in an actual bank account and being distributed to the OIA schools as promised to make this merger happen.

    The biggest problem I have is that Keith Amemiya never played football…in fact im pretty sure he didnt play any sports at all. He doesn’t understand the physicality of the game because hes never strapped it up in his life. He needs to keep his nose out of sports already…Sick of this guy. He should go into politics cuz he would be a great politician. Get someone with brains running the show! Harold Tanaka (the football director) another guy that never played ball! WTF are we doing here in Hawaii when we have plenty more qualified and knowledgeable people that can help our game move forward.

  7. ILH July 25, 2018 11:29 am


    Best line yet……. “One thing about Keith is that he loves him some Keith”.

    I truly think, you really dont know him that well.

    Im just trying to think how his lack of playing football plays into this or into the things he has done thus far. Can you share?

    There seems to be some deep down in the na’au kind of hatred you have for Keith that might be stemming from what?

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