OIA passes transfer rule (extended)

(Here’s the longer version of this morning’s story in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser.)

It was months in the works, but the Oahu Interscholastic Association has made it official: transferring student-athletes will have to sit out one year.

The vote by OIA principals was 18-0 in favor of the change. Currently, a student-athlete can play immediately at another school once the transfer process, whether by moving into the district or district exception, is complete.

The new rule will require all student-athletes to sit out a minimum of one calendar year in the sport he or she previous played at the varsity level.

OIA executive director Raymond Fujino considered the change a necessity. The new rule comes with an appeals process, Fujino added. In a case where a family moves to a new district out of necessity, an appeal could be heard.

The new rule kicks in at the beginning of the 2015-16 academic year. For the most part, however, the new rule is in effect because of a rising level of transfers in one sport: football.

Football programs at Kaiser and Mililani have drawn an unusual number of transfers in recent years. The hiring of former University of Hawaii assistant coach Rich Miano spurred a large influx of football transfers during his two seasons there. Miano was a maverick, and an aggressive one at that. He said openly that he and his staff would do their best to “recruit” football players to the program, which had been struggling along in Division II.

Miano said at the time that students were transferring in to take the baccalaureate classes offered by the school.

Mililani was also drawing a large number of transfers during that time, though coach Rod York never uttered the “R” word. York, another former UH player, insisted that he never reached out to players or parents to lure them to Mililani.

With those two programs rolling up victories and collecting more talent, administrators began to ratchet up discussions about changing the transfer rule.

Miano left early this year, and the chatter around a rule change seemed to simmer down. However, things got heated up again when a Kauai student-athlete left that campus during preseason to transfer to Kaiser, where Cameron Higgins is now the head coach.

Kauai also lost two starting offensive linemen to Saint Louis in June. The number of programs that have been hit by departing transfers is another big factor in the rule change. There are families that have children attending different high schools to take advantage of better programs whether they’re sports or other extracurricular activities.

Red Raiders coach Tommy John Cox already had plans to leave coaching after the season.

“I decided awhile ago that this year is it. But when you lose your three best players, it’s kind of tough. I tried to tell these guys, if you’re good, they will find you. But nowadays, I think it’s more about the parents. They go to so many camps and get seen, I don’t know how much the regular season has a bearing on how they get recruited,” Cox said. “The high schools sell it to the parents, schools like Kaiser. We’ve lost to kids to Kaiser two years in a row.”

Cox’s program had been a dynasty in the KIF, but Kapaa took charge and won this year’s title. He doesn’t begrudge anyone who leaves.

“I never ever blame them for leaving. I give them my blessing,” he said. “I don’t think it’s going to end. They’re going to go.”

Kaiser and Mililani aren’t the only schools that have gained talent through the transfer process. On the West side, players have shuffled between one school to another in musical chairs style for years, but only in the last few seasons has one specific program begun to accumulate the talent to start a dynasty: Mililani.

Last year, two all-state players in the ILH were asked where they have gone if private school was not an option. Both didn’t hesitate to answer: Mililani. Neither had been asked to go there. Both liked the “winning tradition” at the school.

Mililani has also been, more or less, a regular cast member of televised high school football for years.

Other questions will follow in wake of the OIA’s vote. Currently, students can transfer to another school for specific activities — say, to participate in marching band at Moanalua or Mililani. Will the league and DOE lock down on them, too?

It’s an interesting dynamic in action. While some ILH schools regularly recruit talent and offer lucrative financial-aid packages, the OIA’s push-back is to go the other way and level the playing field, so to speak.

The current No. 1 football team in the state, Punahou, has attracted talent from all over the island, but will likely never be bound to transfer rules dictated by outside entities. Saint Louis, with legendary coach Cal Lee back at the helm, has already drawn talent to the campus. Several former JV players from Kahuku are there, sitting out the required year (public school to private school) before becoming eligible to play.

The No. 2 team, Mililani, is a magnet with similar success to Punahou in terms of accepting transfers. That could change immensely with the new rule.

The timeline for the new rule could also mean that there may be a rush of transfers trying to beat the deadline next summer.

The effect could far-reaching. At Kahuku, there have been generations of students who have grown up on the mainland, then transferred to Kahuku to graduate from their parents’ alma mater. Four current Red Raiders were on the mainland a year ago.

“Some of this job has been so fun and some has been so hard,” first-year head coach Lee Leslie said. “It’s not easy, and this is something i can’t control, so I’m not even worried about it. It’s about getting their academics up so they can get recruited.

Leslie added that if the rule extends to all student-athletes, it could affect families that have expressed an interest in moving to Kahuku from other places in Polynesia.

HHSAA executive director Christopher Chun said he doesn’t believe the rule will go that far.

Some programs, like Kahuku, get more attention than most high schools, and even lower-tier colleges. Kaniela Tuipulotu was a promising, 6-foot-1, 215-pound freshman running back/tight end at Lahainaluna several years ago. Two years later, he moved to Kahuku, living with an uncle and about 10 other relatives under one roof, just for a chance to play for his dream team.

If he had to face a one-year sit-out, things might have turned out differently for Tuipulotu, who wound up becoming an all-state player for the Red Raiders. He later played defensive tackle for the University of Hawaii.

“I probably would’ve stayed in Lahaina. I heard I might have to sit out a year back then for whatever reason, but thankfully I didn’t have to,” he wrote via text. “But I think this new rule is crap. Preventing kids from going to an established school to get recognized by colleges is like eliminating one more resource. It’s crazy. That was my motivation for transferring because without a scholarship, college would’ve been only a dream.”

The notion of neighborhood and community pride has given way, for many student-athletes and parents, to the opportunity to be under the spotlight. The pressure to reap the rewards of a college scholarship is gargantuan for some players. But there are still plenty of athletes who didn’t get constant attention at the prep level and still were “discovered” by college recruiters.

Former Waialua standout Micah Hatchie has started at left tackle for Washington since his sophomore year. His classmate at Waialua, Graham Rowley, was also a standout offensive lineman. He was recruited by BYU and played defensive end for two seasons before going on a church mission. He returned to the Cougars this fall.

Another D-II program, Kaimuki, produced two college players in recent years. Siaosi Hala‘api‘api played immediately at Wyoming, finishing fifth in tackles as a freshman. He is now in his third season as a defensive end for the Cowboys.

Chester Sua, a former standout running back, went from Kaimuki to Washington State. He got on the field quickly, converting to linebacker.

Another player on the WSU roster is former Pearl City standout Cyrus Coen, who has 41 tackles in seven games. Former Aiea player Taylor Taliulu is also on the roster and ranks fourth in tackles.

The rule change already has many parents — and alumni — in an uproar. But if the goal is a college scholarship, Hatchie, Rowley, Hala‘api‘api, Sua and Coen have already proved that playing in a “smaller” program can produce big results.

At the other end of the debate, open enrollment is something parents have wanted for a long time. The effect of students transferring for athletics is not necessarily a large number. But any sway in enrollment numbers can, over time, have an influence over faculty size, particularly in schools that have already seen enrollment numbers shrink.

In the end, it might just be about lack of institutional control — or perception of it — and the OIA is as big an institution as there is in the world of high school athletics.


  1. andrea galaza October 29, 2014 8:58 am

    Let us not forget that there are outstanding players on the Kaiser football team that lived in the that district since elementary school. Please give them some credit.

  2. BigRedCountry October 29, 2014 9:42 am

    It helps Mililanis football program to be able to say to their recruits that they have their own TV network called OC16 where all their alumni and residents work at.

  3. Facts-808 October 29, 2014 3:36 pm

    “Those outstanding players” lol

  4. Al October 29, 2014 5:25 pm

    Same thing every year mililani got transfers so what they still play like brothers stop your moaning it’s called hard work,!

  5. Recruiter808 October 30, 2014 2:14 am

    Its not hard work when you bring in kids that have an immediate impact on the team. They don’t come up through the pop warner and JV program together yet the kids that do see their hard work go for nothing because they are left on the side. Its sad when kids now take short cuts to achieve greatness instead of the journey.

  6. Pops808 October 30, 2014 7:23 am

    This rule change has nothing to do with the kids. Who’s best interest are we really looking out for? The Alma-Mater of a losing program? The cry-baby parent of a kid who can’t win his position out-right against a transfer? Or the Principal who can’t get his/her coaches to win games with players they have on hand? Cut the BS. This rule change has everything to do with people being butt-hurt. Get over it, it isn’t just Hawaii, this stuff happens all over the U.S.

  7. bangbanggorilla October 30, 2014 7:30 am

    There’s 6 starters on Mililani’s Offense that dont even live nowhere near Mililani lol….

  8. Al October 30, 2014 7:50 am

    It doesn’t matter where any of the players live my point is we are all on the same island are you saying one part of the island has better players than another.?i don’t think so . It’s the coaching and brotherhood that make these kids play like they do.would you live one place and only take a job in that comunity no,! You work were your happy right same as these kids let um play and stop being so negative that all I’m saying

  9. nohate October 30, 2014 8:09 am

    Actually yea, there are parts of the island that does produce better players then other parts, its sad to say and hear but its the truth. Schools like Farrington, Kahuku, and Waianae have been consistantly in the thick of things for the past 20 yrs or maybe more…. but schools like Mililani and Kaiser out of no where start winning games like they been? Ive never heard so much polynisian names on any Mililani or Kaiser football team till last season.

  10. andrea galaza October 30, 2014 8:55 am

    Funny how no one knows that Kaiser’s leading rusher has lived in the district since his preschool years!

  11. nohate October 30, 2014 9:44 am

    @andrea galaza, your talkin about one kid, this has nothing to do wit one kid but the numerous transfers both Schools had within the last few yrs…. your making a case for a kid whose from the district, this article is about kids transfering to others schools for a sport or personal or team gain and prolly not for academics.

  12. Pops808 October 30, 2014 10:43 am

    OIA logic: “hmmmmm… How can I screw kids that want leave a junk football program, in hopes of getting better coaching? I know! If they leave, we’ll force them to sit a year, which will make them stay and play for their old junk programs. That’ll teach ’em for wanting to better themselves!” Sounds legit to me…

  13. Recruiter808 October 30, 2014 11:53 am

    And thats why Kaiser and their leading rusher will be at home, in the house he grew up in since preschool, watching the football game tomorrow night. All the transfers transferred out.

  14. Recruiter808 October 30, 2014 11:57 am

    And AL YES, certain parts of the Island have better athletes and players than other parts. Uh duhhh…….

  15. andrea galaza October 30, 2014 2:00 pm

    Kaiser still did better than the 0-7 predicted with a lot of kids that did play Pop Warner together in the district. Everyone seems to think that none of Kaiser students live locally. All students island wide deserve credit for their time and effort. You don’t need to be so negative.

  16. footballfan2014 October 30, 2014 4:12 pm

    This is a complete step backwards in my opinion, seriously, to build a winning program with a finite amount of talent is hard enough. But to build a championship program takes top players, no matter where the program resides. Now unless you are hot bed of talent as is the case with the North Shore community. You will never have parity or other powerhouse programs to off-set a program like Kahuku. Mililani or Kaiser for example were able to do that as a result of ‘transfers’ combined with a strong local base of talent. I’m sorry, but it is very difficult to build a championship program with just purely local talent of the area, unless you are a Kahuku. Also, to me the level of play overall will go down. The practice of transferring to another school to help their program and elevate your play is perfectly legitimate and should not be hamstrung with probationary rules of staying out a year when most of these really good players are strongest in their junior and senior years. This is really sad and basically tells mid-level programs that want to ascend to that championship level, sorry buddy, we’re gonna put in a archaic, no point rule, just to satisfy ourselves and make it harder for you. And to those players that have the ability but are in a school district that doesn’t have a strong program, hey you’re good but you ain’t gonna win that much or at least not the championship and what player is gonna say, hey we lost and we no chance of a championship, but at least I played good.

  17. nohate October 30, 2014 5:24 pm

    @billy hull ….. scoringlive.com predicted Kaiser to go 0-7

  18. Trojan fan October 30, 2014 7:30 pm

    There’s no football team on this island that don’t have transfers . But because mililani doing so good people gotta make some kind of remarks about it.i guess they gotta make some excuse why they can’t beat um GO TROJANS

  19. FoxTrot October 31, 2014 7:15 am

    Wow, all these Trojan fans on here trying to justify their program’s recruitment practices. I guess I can’t really blame them though. I mean, we all know the history of Mililani football. Why would they ever want to go back to those dark days?

  20. nohate October 31, 2014 8:02 am

    @trojan fan, i dont think people making up excuses why they cant beat mililani but the fact that the OIA is doing somthing about all these lopsided games this season and the amount of transfers that is going on. Kaiser and Mililani have had the most within the last 2yrs. But if you want i can break down every transfer to Mililani and what high school lost out and what poor kid local to the school lost there spot due to these players rransfering to their school..

  21. Trojan fan October 31, 2014 9:27 am

    Like I said it doesn’t matter how many transfers they have they play as brothers .they don’t have to justify anything. if the school has a good program, good coaches they will come. Simple as that.GO TROJANS

  22. nohate October 31, 2014 10:41 am

    And since when did Mililani have good coaches and a program….

    OIA Red Conference
    2013 Mililani Rod York
    2012 Kahuku Reggie Torres
    2011 Kahuku Reggie Torres
    2010 Mililani Rod York
    2009 Kahuku Reggie Torres
    2008 Kahuku Reggie Torres
    2007 Leilehua Nolan Tokuda
    2006 Kahuku Reggie Torres
    2005 Kahuku Siuaki Livai
    2004 Kahuku Siuaki Livai
    2003 Kahuku Siuaki Livai

  23. Trojan fan October 31, 2014 12:22 pm

    No hate I ask for the weather you give me news .OLD NEWS! We talking about what’s going down tonight watch the game and see what kind of program mililani has.GO TROJANS

  24. nohate October 31, 2014 12:45 pm

    We’ll see wat kinda program they have when their transfers graduate…. not naming names but #19, #79, #69, #80, #11, #65, #50 (All Starters and all polynisian), i know these kids nd this team really well. Except for #50 all these transfers went over as soon as an uncle of theirs which is now on the coaching staff went to help Mililani, i was asked as well to bring my kid over but i declined. So i kinda know what it took to build this so called program… but when their gone back to the same ol trojan football. I spoke with a few parents who transferred their kids out because of the favoritism goin on there so this rule effects both sides of the player, the good ones and the ones who get jucied due to playing favorites. #morethenmeetstheeye

  25. Trojan fan October 31, 2014 1:29 pm

    We live in a free country you can play with your uncles team,friends team, cousins team,or where ever you choose .lets just agree to disagree and leave it at that.have a blessed weekend TROJAN FAN

  26. Recruiter808 October 31, 2014 3:00 pm

    Welcome to the top Trojan Fan. You will always have people trying to kick you or degrade you when your on top. It comes with the territory. St. Louis had to deal with it, Kahuku had to deal with it, even Leleihua had people talking about their program when they won States. Thats how you know you’ve arrived at the top and thats why its lonely there. Should be a good game if the Kahuku Coach gets his head out of his butt and actually uses the talent he has.

  27. ugotmel February 17, 2015 12:24 am

    This rule that the O.I.A has voted unanimously for affects student athletes of more sports than just football. I have never had my daughter play for a coach who wasnt an advocate for local girls getting exposure in the mainland. I played all 4 years in h.s. and was a 1st team and all state honorable mention volleyball player, that was NEVER enough to get recognized as a competitor at the next level. I believe with this rule, it sets players back. Takes away options to better their future at playing for a team (including the Coach) who is supportive and positive. It has made my daughter lose confidence in high school sports and has changed her attitude. These are years she can never get back or reinact due to a rule tat keeps her at a school with a dictator for a soccer coach.

  28. SCHOOL May 22, 2015 1:58 pm

    Gotta do what you gotta do!!! Picking a school/programs makes a huge difference and could be a life changing decision.
    Just like if Mariota went to UH, his style would not fit Norm chows offense. Ultimately his stocks would drop or he wouldn’t be were he is at today without all the publicity…And Hawaii wouldn’t have all this pride.

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