It’s all in the hands of the Hawaii High School Athletic Association football committee now.
That committee worked all year to gather information and make recommendations to the high school football voting bodies, and then those recommendations passed by a wide margin. Yet, the committee and four of the state’s leagues got hit Friday with a severely hard pill to swallow by the state’s other league, the Oahu Interscholastic Association.
Moments after the votes came in to the HHSAA executive board to go forward with the three-tiered state football tournament, OIA executive director Ray Fujino dropped a proverbial bomb and told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser and other reporters that his league, the state’s largest with 22 football-playing schools, would only participate in Division I and D-II and not in the Open Division.
And while the rest of the state football community, including Hawaii High School Athletic Association executive director Chris Chun, is panicking about the huge problems that this is likely to cause, there may be a way out of what has become a very messy situation.
Chun said that the OIA’s decision is not official yet, meaning it has not informed the HHSAA of its intentions. All leagues have until Sept. 1 to declare which of the three divisions its teams will compete in at the state level.
So, in the meantime, the HHSAA’s football committee will be convening and working toward a way to save the three tiers by addressing any concerns the OIA has that makes it want to avoid (or destroy) the Open.
The OIA has not been clear about its reasons why it does not want the Open Division. OIA president Wade Araki addressed the league’s concerns about the issue in a Septemper 2016 letter to Chun, but they were just that — concerns and not formal, well thought out reasons to want to overhaul what the state’s voting members have implemented.
When asked Thursday for reasons why the OIA’s athletic directors were the only ones to vote against the three tiers (the Hawaii Interscholastic Athletic Directors Association’ final count at the Hilton Waikoloa Village was 63-27 on Thursday before ratification by the HHSAA executive board at the same hotel Friday), Fujino did not answer and instead said the answer could be found in by looking back in stories written about the letter by the Honolulu Star-Advertiser and Hawaii Prep World. At that time, the OIA was considering not participating in the state tournament because of those concerns. Subscribers can read that Star-Advertiser’s September 2016 story here. For Hawaii Prep World’s September 2016 story, click here.
Chun’s response to those concerns is in both stories.
When told of the OIA’s decision Friday, one prominent OIA coach from a strong team who did not want to be identified said wishfully before fully digesting the ramifications, “Really? Are the ILH teams going to go down to D-I, too?”
Which brings us to what this is all about and all that particular coach really cares about — competition on the field. He wants the best competition out there. That’s what most everybody wants.
That’s why the football committee’s next few meetings will be huge. All of the state’s leagues have representatives on the committee and, as Chun said and is hoping, maybe they can work something out to avoid what could possibly be a complete disaster.
The way it stands now, with Kamehameha, Punahou and Saint Louis of the ILH in the Open Division and Kahuku, Waianae, Mililani and Farrington of the OIA in Division I, that is exactly what it is — a complete disaster.
That is not what 63 athletic directors had in mind when they won the majority vote on the issue.