A whole new world is where the Hawaii High School Athletic Association is heading this postseason.
On Monday, seeding and pairings for the new-look First Hawaiian Bank/HHSAA Division I State Football Championships were released, and after less than 24 hours, public response has been varied, to say the least. The first year of this pilot program — expanding from two levels, Divisions I and II, to three (adding Open Division) will take time for fans, coaches, players, administrators to digest.
That doesn’t mean the process is easy. Here’s what HHSAA Executive Director Chris Chun wrote via text on Tuesday morning regarding the process.
HPW: Was it difficult cobbling the D-I bracket together or pretty easy?
Chun: Pretty unanimous by coordinators.
HPW: Hilo as the No. 1 seed may surprise people, but historically, they’ve had some pretty good performances even in defeat.
Chun: Hilo is the only league champion.
(Note: Baldwin is the Maui Interscholastic League’s D-I representative, but because the league has only two D-I members in football, Baldwin is not technically recognized by the HHSAA as a league champion. A league is required to have three members to be recognized in full by the HHSAA.)
HPW: In the eyes of some, ‘Iolani has the “easy” route against Moanalua, a team that forfeited its playoff consolation game last week. But half the field is from the OIA and can’t play against each other in round one (as much as possible). Is this more about pairings and seedings?
Chun: All leagues had them there. Not easy. Campbell is on their side.
I also asked about the Open Division format. So many questions have been peppered about Kahuku and the two ILH entries, champion Saint Louis and runner-up Punahou. Will Punahou wind up in Kahuku’s bracket? Or will Saint Louis and Punahou be lined up in the same bracket?
Chun pointed out that the OIA playoffs are not done, so nothing is a given. This is true. Kahuku has been dominant in Hawaii for the past two seasons (and many more prior), but anything could happen along the way to the state tourney.
“OIA Is not done yet, (so we) don’t want to impact their final games,” Chun said.
Whether Kahuku wins the OIA or not, it will play in the Open Division tourney since four of the six spots are reserved for the OIA’s semifinalists: Kahuku, Farrington, Kapolei, Waianae.
Chun has kept the process as streamlined and basic as possible. In one word, he writes: “Vote.”
“All leagues voted in the divisions they are participating in and we’re the tiebreaker in the ones they aren’t. No real disagreements. Everything was pretty unanimous,” he wrote.
It’s almost the perfect setting. The new format has the state’s football watchers intrigued. There is a buzz like no other. Three tiers? The OIA had three divisions in the 1980s, but all the state had in the postseason was the Oahu Prep Bowl and the Neighbor Island Bowl. Land of champions only.
That was then. For all the old-school folks who would still prefer contraction — fewer teams in state tournaments — there are many, many more who like the expansion of tournaments in all sports.