Saint Louis is declining an invitation to a national bowl game, the school announced to Hawaii Prep World today.
The Crusaders (11-0) — No. 7 in the MaxPreps Xcellent 25 and No. 15 in the USA Today Super 25 — were invited to the Geico State Champions Bowl Series.
UPDATE: Rashid Ghazi, who helped create Paragon Marketing Group, which created the GEICO Bowl Series, told USA Today and confirmed with Hawaii Prep World that Saint Louis had originally agreed to play in the event.
“The package we were providing Saint Louis was all expenses paid, including flights, hotels, meals, accommodations and ground transportation for a traveling party of 75 plus a cash rights fee for the school and one for the HHSAA,” he said.
The timing is not right for Saint Louis to make the trip for the Dec. 22 event, according to Glenn Medeiros, the president of Saint Louis School.
In a prepared statement, Medeiros wrote, “After winning the Open state football championship, the school considered participating in the Geico State Champions Bowl Series. Although it would be an honor to be involved, coaches Cal and Ron Lee, co-athletic directors Ryan Blangiardi and Gerald Welch spent the last few days considering if this trip would be in the best interest of our students. Although traveling is a wonderful way to educate students about the world around them, proving more exposure for our athletes, this particular game takes place during finals week. For this reason, students attending would have to miss their final exams. Additionally, not all players would be able to make the trip, given certain limitations which include the number of hotel rooms available and the cost associated with travel that the school would subsidize (and) families being responsible for assisting financially.
“Moreover, several families have already made plans to travel or make visits to colleges or simply take family vacations during this time. Furthermore, this game does not represent a playoff game, where a national champion is crowned. It is simply an exhibition game against a nationally ranked opponent, similar to those of which we play each year at the beginning of the season, when academics is not adversely affected. Finally, participating in this game would mean that athletes already committed to other sports would have to abandon those teams during the month of December.”
The Crusaders wrapped up their third straight top-tier state championship on Saturday at Aloha Stadium, defeating Mililani 38-17. They have won 26 games in a row.
Cal Lee was reached via cell phone and asked about Medeiros’ statement.
“The timing was not right,” Lee said about the decision to not take the trip. “It’s finals week at the same time. Players have family vacations. Players are playing other sports, such as basketball and wrestling and those sports have already started. It would have been a great opportunity. I wish I could have made it work for the kids’ sake.”
Chris Chun, the HHSAA executive director, said the HHSAA has been working closely with the Bowl Series for the last few months trying to get Hawaii’s state champion into the game.
“We wanted to give our state champion the opportunity to participate in this event,” Chun said in a statement to Hawaii Prep World on Wednesday. “The HHSAA respects Saint Louis School’s decision to decline the invitation for the reasons mentioned.”
The field is not set for the Dec. 22 Bowl Series. Four teams will be picked for a doubleheader out of the six state champions from Arizona, Utah, Florida, Washington, Maryland and Georgia. Most states crown their champions in December.
Saint Louis has defeated Narbonne (Calif.) each of the last two seasons at Aloha Stadium and has won three straight games against mainland opponents since losing to St. John Bosco (Calif.) in 2014 at Aloha Stadium.
The Crusaders haven’t traveled to the mainland for a game since beating West High in Salt Lake City in 1999.