‘SuperConference’ revisited

SuperConference update

It’s been about 12 years since I penned an outlandish idea about combining the elite football teams of the ILH and OIA into one conference. The increased attendance and revenue would benefit all of the schools in the two leagues. Fans would be intrigued by the reunion of old rivals.

Back in 2000 to ’02, I was an editor and writer for HSN magazine, covering high school sports. It gave me an opportunity to ask questions, so I did. When I broached the throwback idea — after all, the OIA and ILH had been combined until public schools defected in 1970 — to then-OIA chief Dwight Toyama in 2000, he pointed out the basic reasons why he didn’t visualize a reunion.

>> 1. ILH has superior resources
>> 2. ILH has superior facilities
>> 3. ILH has direct feeder programs (intermediate football)

The third reason tied into one of Toyama’s dreams: a middle-school athletics program for public schools. (Years later, this idea is beginning to bear fruit.) He had one more point, to boot. If the ILH insisted on more state berths, then maybe, just maybe, the public schools would be wiser to start their own state tournament. It was, for Toyama, all about a level playing field. Fairness.

I took his points to heart. As a public-school graduate, I know well the difficulty of any sports program with limited budgets and, of course, the severe limitations of district boundaries. But what few administrators are willing to discuss is the ‘R’ word: recruiting.

It’s the biggest reason why the public schools walked out and formed the OIA, and it still goes on. Not outright letter-of-intent signing to play for the ILH’s name-brand schools, but there’s no question that financial aid and scholarships are coveted by most student-athletes and their families.

This has always been. It always shall be. The food chain is the food chain. In Hawaii, education is highly valued. So are successful sports programs, and there’s no doubt that the elite private schools will always have the support of their alumni.

I certainly understand the concerns of public school administrators and coaches. Why compete in a league against a world of big, big money? The plausible question would be this: If a school like Punahou could swipe much of the finest public-school talent in the 1960s, why wouldn’t it do the same today?

And yet, there is hardly an athlete or coach in the public schools who wouldn’t want to play the best, the very best, at any time. And especially in the same league, for the state championship, or even in an exhibition/preseason game. This is the Aloha State, but it is also a highly competitive state that produces one of the highest rates, per capita, of college football players.

And beyond that, let’s face it. The finest private schools often attract top talent today anyway, with or without a “superconference.”

This is about something dreamy. Fantastical. Here’s what a 2013 version of three divisions would look like through Pupule-tinted spectacles.

SuperConference (a.k.a. Division I)

  • Campbell
  • Farrington
  • Kahuku
  • Kamehameha
  • Kapolei
  • Leilehua
  • Mililani
  • Punahou
  • Saint Louis
  • Waianae

10 teams, one round-robin, nine regular-season games.
Regular-season winner: state-tournament berth.
Playoffs: Top four teams advance to championship bracket. Teams 5 through 8 advance to ‘B’ bracket and the winner gets the fifth and final state berth. (This is based on an expansion of the Division I state tourney from six teams to eight, which was the original format.)

Division II

  • WEST
  • Aiea
  • Damien
  • McKinley
  • Moanalua
  • Pearl City
  • Radford
  • Waipahu
  • EAST
  • Castle
  • ‘Iolani
  • Kailua
  • Kaimuki
  • Kaiser
  • Kalani
  • Pac-Five

Divisional round robin (six games) followed by a 12-team playoff tournament.
Note: Divisional (regular-season) winners qualify for automatic state berths. The remaining two state berths will be determined by playoff finish.

Division III

  • Anuenue
  • Kalaheo
  • Nanakuli
  • Roosevelt
  • St. Francis
  • Waialua

Double-round robin. The first year (or two) are strictly exhibition status until other leagues start D-III. (HHSAA requires at least three participating leagues before sanctioning any state tournament.)

With this format, there will be a home for all teams in Division II regardless of enrollment size. Smaller programs can opt for D-III. No larger school (roughly 1,200 students or more) can move down to D-III. Any program can petition to play up in a higher division.

It’ll be fun, as always, to compare notes, to tweak, to absorb better ideas, bury bad ones… but there’s always this. The ILH has voted against every proposal at HIADA (Athletic Directors annual conference) that recommended expansion of the D-I state tournament. No “superconference” proposal has ever been discussed, at least in my memory.

The ILH votes with the OIA against change that would permit more ILH teams in the state football tournament. There’s no reason to believe that stance will chance anytime soon. That’s why I call this superconference more of a fantasy than anything, emphasis on ‘fan.’

But it’s worth discussing at this point, especially in light of blowout games, mismatches, and as Dave Reardon has penned recently, the possible growing threat of serious injuries.


  1. John October 16, 2013 7:00 am

    And sadly, it’s probably going to take a serious injury to open the eyes of the ILH, OIA, and HHSAA

  2. CriticalReader October 16, 2013 8:59 am

    Paul, don’t the DII and DIII conferences and teams deserve to have their conference named too? Howabout “Not Superconference” for DII and “REALLY not Superconference” for DIII? Also, the BOE/DOE is asking the Legislature for an additional $65 million to fund basic operational costs ($40 million) (pay teachers), and $25 million for some air conditioning. Before spending a minute or a dollar talking about reconfiguring football dealing with a $65 million funding shortfall for basic educational operations should be the absolute priority. Also, IF a supreme conference were created, the ILH should be allocated 5 slots (which are theirs to waive if not enough of their teams choose to play in a DI conference), with equal votes REGARDLESS of the number of teams from each league. The minute human nature causes targeted policy making against the private schools’ interests, this idea is in the round filing cabinet anyway. The Toyama doctrine reported in the article needs to be neutralized from the get go if for no other reason than it reflects a tendency to equate “fairness” with either maneuvering a numerical advantage for the OIA, or imposing negative consequences for ILH progressive initiatives (Intermediate football), or allocation of resources. And, one claring problem with the dream is, how does a team move from Super Duper to a lower division, or from obscurity to the promised land? A vote? Managed or dominated by people who think like Toyama? The media’s TOP 10 poll? Scout.com recruiting rankings? Based on this year’s experience alone, I don’t understand why Moanalua, McKINLEY!, Kaiser, Iolani, etc., etc., etc. shouldn’t be allowed to play for “perceived” highest honors in the State because of a completely artificial barrier imposed administratively, and would be imposed pretty much pre-season before anything is clearly known. Because of the “perception” (pre-season, or even a year before) they are not good enough? Any given Friday Night, folks. If you believe in ANYTHING in football, you gotta believe in the concept of “Any Given Friday Night”. And, of course, I continue to urge complete and meaningful consideration of the wisdom at all of permitting or encouraging ANY kids to play high school football in light of what we now know about the injury component. But, most critically, the source and motivation of this idea has finally been honestly put forth: “This is about something dreamy. Fantastical”. Yup. A sportswriter’s Dream. A Fantastic way to cover really interesting high school football without having to drive all over the island, or risk letting another reporter cover a “hot” game. And, this will make it FAR more possible and interesting to start Hawaii High School Football Fantasy Leagues – the next natural and progressive evolution of high school football (if it’s not already going on).

  3. Paul Honda October 16, 2013 11:11 am

    CriticalReader, thank you for sharing your thoughts. I’d like to see your version of an improved format, if you have one in mind.

    With or without middle-school programs, the OIA could do this. In other words, they could do it sooner rather than later without incurring additional costs.

    I don’t have a big problem with the existing system. After all, the ILH and OIA combined have most of the Division I berths in state tournaments of all sports. Combining them for football would extinguish one of the elements that makes the state tourney appealing. I’d miss some of that mystery caused by having separate entities until the postseason. But the allure of a superconference would have more positives.

    You have a good point about other teams that would end up in a D-II grouping. Sure, it’s not fair to them. There’s no perfect format. But for this superconference, there would be a limit. But even with the current format, there are worthy teams that are playing in the OIA White. They’d be fine in the Red Conference.

    Btw, I cover games all the time (were you at Waianae on Saturday, too?), so you might see me soon enough. I’m just hoping I get to talk with you in person. I’d enjoy the debate. Until then, I’m going to post here whether you like it or not. I’d rather have discussion and disagreement than nothing at all.

    May the best ideas and plans rise to the top.

  4. lene October 16, 2013 12:32 pm

    heres my thought

    Mililani farrington
    campbell kahuku
    waianae mckinley
    kapolei kailua
    leilehua castle
    waipahu kaimuki
    aiea Roosevelt





    prior to season recommend
    pass leagues

    straight to season no inter league and or pre-season

    and the good thing would be we dont need to change any format of playoffs

    just a thought

  5. CriticalReader October 16, 2013 12:55 pm

    Paul, I don’t have a version of an “improved” format, because I don’t think there is one that can “imprrove” anything. In my view, football in general is in a Catch 22, and youth football especially so when you consider our society is happily ratifying kids going into situations where the chances of debilitating injuries are high, and happen in Hawaii, every season the game is played in Hawaii. And, that’s difficult for me to say because I actually really like football, which is a constant cause for self reflection and acknowledgment of hypocrisy occurring far more often that I like to admit. But this has got to stop. When I was in high school, 1, maybe 2 guys on the team were feeling family pressure to get a football scholarship, and maybe 1/3 of the parents of non-starters were upset because their kid wasn’t getting playing time. Today, 90% of the non-starters’ parents are upset with the coaches AND their own kids because they’re not getting playing time, BECAUSE each is “ruining” their chances of getting a college scholarship. But here are some further thoughts on why yours is a bad idea: In its current configuration, at least the leagues maintain a semblance of like educational purpose. The ILH maintains its eligibility standards, for instance. That means towing the line academically in a private school setting. What is going to be the academic eligibility standard in your re-aligned system? OIA or ILH? What result(s)? Do kids going to school to play football find it simpler to go to the SUper conference schools that grade the easiest? Is that good? Complain or be biased all you want toward private schools, but there is a beneficial academic trade off for kids receiving ILH football benefits (whatever they may be) AS WELL AS being exposed to more rigorous academic environments. State Budget. Wasn’t it just a few years ago that all OIA sports almost got shut down due to State Budget cuts? Could that happen again? What do the ILH teams in the super conference do? How do you protect and guarantee against ILH teams losing an entire season of re-aligned play if the government can no longer support high school football? And, finally, what is the ultimate objective here? For certain public schools and certain private schools to compete on equal footing? To reward “excellence” by assigning schools by levels of “excellence”? OK, I would understand that if the concepts of “equal footing” and “excellence” applied to overall school achievement, and not merely football. THEN a re-alignment would make sense – let the schools performing excellently AS SCHOOLS get the glory. But, you’re not talking about that. You’re talking about letting the schools performing “excellently” in a blood sport get the glory. And, to me, that illustrates the extent our society has its priorities completely turned upside down.

  6. CriticalReader October 16, 2013 2:31 pm

    Also, Paul, Two more things:

    1. I urge you to do what you can to disconnect the StarAdvertiser TOP 10 poll, as well as whatever it is you do rankings wise. I think it contributes to the RUTS results we are seeing, and I can’t imagine if that is the case, anyone would want to contribute to that.

    2. There are 21 HHSAA State Championship sports. 7 State Championships in the next month, which means probably 12-14 Oahu league championships within the next two weeks. Howabout working to get all those events covered on this blog?

  7. Paul Honda October 16, 2013 2:34 pm

    C-Reader, I’m all for encouraging young people to pursue their academic dreams. But in the real world, some of them are not motivated quite as well without athletics.

    Now, we can split hairs about the nuances of private schools and public schools. But this is about improving the current high school football format and I am still waiting (anticipating) your feedback. The one that has a positive solution.

    As much as you feel our society is going backwards (I won’t disagree with you in general), this is about football and some of us are admitted fanatics. Preach all you like. For whatever reason, you like to bang your head on a wall. I can’t stop you.

  8. Paul Honda October 16, 2013 2:39 pm

    About the latter two points, C-Read:

    1. There have been blowouts in sports well before polls were done. I’ve been to enough running-clock games to realize that we can’t have it both ways. In competition, sometimes a mismatch is a mismatch. Blaming polls is ludicrious.

    2. My editors do a great job of utilizing our personnel. I’m not going to suggest to them to do otherwise. Jerry Campany, in particular, has done solid work covering other sports.

    What sport in particular are you fond of? Is there a certain athlete you’d like to see more coverage of?

  9. Paul Honda October 16, 2013 3:02 pm

    Lene, what about combining ILH and OIA for football?

  10. CriticalReader October 16, 2013 3:10 pm


    1. “Blaming polls is ludicrous”. OK. End of discussion on that issue between you and me.

    2. I agree that Campany does a good job, and I have and continue to applaud his work. He can find a story and capture the exciting essance of any sport.

    I am fond of football, as I indicated above. For right now, I’d like to see stories on the McKinley, Waialua and Roosevelt quarterbacks.

  11. CriticalReader October 16, 2013 3:11 pm

    Oh! and each of those teams’ right offensive guards too.

  12. Kanak October 16, 2013 8:51 pm

    ANYTHING would be better than the way the ILH D1 play-offs are currently set up. Makes one wonder who influenced/contrived it. Another reason for change! Unless, of course, you are top dog. BTW, Paul, good job…but just plain ole D1 D2 & D3 are good enough.

  13. CriticalReader October 16, 2013 9:22 pm

    Kanak, what’s the matter with the ILH playoff system?

  14. Kanak October 16, 2013 9:48 pm

    CR….Re: ILH D1 playoffs….Quote from KSK coach, Doug Cosbie: “I think there could be a better one. I think having a bye then having to get beat twice, is probably a little bit too much of an advantage for winning the league — especially in football. The other two teams will beat each other up and the winner has to lose two weeks in a row and that’s a big advantage.”

  15. 808 October 16, 2013 9:53 pm

    We should merge the ILH with the red. The other islands don’t have a private school League and a public school league, and yea I know they don’t have a lot of schools. The ILH is still an Oahu team and should be in a OIA division

  16. CriticalReader October 16, 2013 10:49 pm

    Yeah, lots of complications with 3 teams. They should have eliminated the bye, eliminated the 3rd place team, and just played off 1 and 2 with 1 having to lose 2x to be eliminated.

  17. fan 1 October 17, 2013 5:32 am

    lene….keep the injury out of the topic…in football injuries do occur, all preventable, so…good coaching, work on basic at practice, test the kids before they suit up, move the stronger teams into a DI division, DII in another divison, & DIII in another division…..or if u think u going get hurt….DONʻT PLAY

  18. Moke Galletes October 17, 2013 6:24 am

    Great idea Paul, but Try this or think about it; D1- East-St.Louis, Iolani, Farrington, McKinley, Kaimuki, Kaiser, Kailua, Castle, Kahuku. D1 West- Punahou, Kamehameha, Moanalua, Aiea, Mililani, Campbell, Waianae, Leilehua, kapolei. D2 East- Pac-5, Kalani, Kalaheo, Roosevelt, St.Francis, Anuenue. D2 West- Damien, Radford, Pearl City, Waipahu, Nanakuli, Waialua. We have 30 high school on Oahu and two divisions would work great for the state in general. Food for thoughts. Mahalo Paul.

  19. Kanak October 17, 2013 7:00 am

    Add, #3 has the advantage of a forfeited game a week before ILH D1 playoffs (because of injuries of the #7 ILH D2 team who needs to heal in order to play in their division playoffs). Question(?) Would it be too far-fetched and at possible for the ILH and OIA to compete in the same divisions?

  20. CriticalReader October 17, 2013 9:58 am

    Here’s another way to look at the urge to re-align: BCS. Once you divide up into super-conferences, “super” perks begin to flow only one way. Were those consequences intended? Only by those who stood to gain. Everyone else swallowed the bait or got caught in the wave. Is that where we want to go?

  21. Dave Reardon October 17, 2013 10:49 am

    I also don’t like the name Super Conference, but other than that agree with pretty much everything Paul puts out here … As for the polls causing blowouts? That’s quite a reach, and I actually downgrade teams in my vote that obviously run up the score. Blowouts are caused by mismatches and there are more than necessary because of flawed organization of divisions. It is part of why OIA-ILH merger is needed in football.

  22. CriticalReader October 17, 2013 11:52 am

    ON September 6, 2013. St. Louis v. Pac5 was played -the week after St. Louis lost to Kamehameha (St. Louis suffered the ignominy the following Monday of being leap frogged in the polls by Kamehameha and had Iolani and Damien in the 2 weeks following P5).

    I presume we all know that the St. Louis Kuhns/Stubblefield tandem is a potent as it gets, and gives DI prospect DE/CB opposing tandems fits.

    I also presume everyone considers St. Louis’ Noga to be a beast, and definitely one of the best running backs in the State.

    The scoring summary for that game up to 6:06 left in the 2nd quarter:

    7-0 1Q – STL :: D. Stubblefield, 70 yard pass from R. Kuhns. (M. Mariota kick good) [11:00] -7 1Q – P5 :: T. Brennan, 18 yard pass from A. Canencia. (kick failed) [6:53]
    14-7 1Q – STL :: A. Noga, 79 yard run. (M. Mariota kick good) [6:30]
    21-7 1Q – STL :: T. Oshiro, 42 yard interception return. (C. Quinn kick good) [6:10]
    28-7 1Q – STL :: F. Lulu, 25 yard interception return. (C. Quinn kick good) [4:53]
    35-7 2Q – STL :: D. Stubblefield, 12 yard pass from R. Kuhns. (M. Mariota kick good) [11:54]
    42-7 2Q – STL :: S. Johnson, 6 yard pass from R. Kuhns. (M. Mariota kick good) [8:33]
    49-7 2Q – STL :: A. Noga, 33 yard run. (C. Quinn kick good) [6:06]

    Kuhns to Stubblefield with the score 28-7 after the first quarter to make it 35-7? Were the St. Louis Coaches actually afraid P5 was going to stage a 21 point comeback?

    Kuhns still being told to pass at 35-7, to make it 42-7? St. Louis afraid of a 28 point comback?

    Noga still on the field at 42-7 to make it 49-7? Fear of a 42 point comeback?

    The game was won by St. Louis prior, long prior to the above three questioned plays. St. Louis has plenty of players siting on pine and pining for playing time behind Kuhns, Stubblefield and Noga. St. Louis’ “record” was only going to reflect 1 more ILH win regardless of whether or not Kuhns passed for 2 more TDs or Noga ran in the third.

    What could have been the motivation to score quickly and more at 28-7 in the 1st quarter? Or at 35-7. or at 42-7? No motivation? St. Louis couldn’t help it?

  23. CriticalReader October 17, 2013 12:09 pm

    And, let me ask everyone this hypothetical:

    1. Kamehameha and Punahou are ranked #s 1 and ‘2 in all the various and sundry polls that have cropped up, going into a weekend of play.

    2. During that weekend’s ILH games, a first game involves one of EITHER Kamehameha or Punahou against one of the weakest (this year) ILH teams. EITHER Punahou or Kamehameha plays in a following game.

    3. In the FIRST game played at Aloha Stadium, either Punahou or Kamehameha rolls over their opponent 42-0,

    4. In the SECOND game, either Punahou or Kamehameha has the ball on their own 50 yd. line, 1st down, with 1:00 remaining of running time.

    5. In that SECOND game, Punahou or Kamehameha is winning by either 35-0 or 42-0 (take your pick).

    6. REMEMBER, Punahou and Kamehameha go into those games at 1 and 2 ranks in the “polls”.

    QUESTION: You think the Punahou or Kamehameha coaches try to throw the ball in that remaining 1:00 minute? Would you be surprised if they did?

  24. lene October 17, 2013 1:04 pm

    Hey Paul yes that is what my post was about… Only football all other sports stay the same.

    here let me make it more clear. O.I.L.H.A
    Oahu Interscholastic Association
    Interscholastic League of Honolulu

    would join the OIA DIV. 1 = 2 go to east and other 2 to the west.

    st. francis
    pac- five
    would join the OIA division 2

    The only suggestion I would make would be encourage the teams to do more pass leagues and control scrimmages. so when its season time with new additions go straight in to league play. The only change for playoffs would be now without the ILH berth the O.I.L.H.A would have 4 teams instead of the current OIA 3 ILH 1. the good thing some years might be all ILH or OIA thats the fun part of it.

    Here theres a good balance of Above average, average, and weak (but competitive) teams on both divisions. as for teams coming up and going down every two years teams can petition the transition. Only because if a DIv. 1 or Div 2 is doing good or bad two consecutive years then that might be a good reason to change. but dont know my humble thought

  25. CriticalReader October 18, 2013 9:57 am

    Midweek Columnist Steve Murray wronte a piece everyone here should read. Here’s an excerpt:

    ‘Harry Carson, the Hall of Fame New York Giants linebacker, summed up the sport’s future succinctly. “From a physical risk standpoint, you know what you are doing when you sign your kid up – that he can hurt his knee. What you should know now is your child could develop a brain injury as a result of playing football. It’s not just on the pro level, but on every level of football. The question is, do you want it to be your child?”
    The researchers profiled seem to agree children should not play tackle football until the age of 14.
    Is that too drastic? In 2006, Eric Pelly was just 18 when he died following his fourth concussion. He too had CTE.”

    Limk to Murray’s article:


  26. Philip Enos October 18, 2013 1:33 pm

    The thing for me with the Division III is that these kids don’t have the opportunity to play for a state championship. It doesn’t sit right with me that we should penalize these guys because there school has a small enrollment. Kahuku has a small enrollment also but they are still in Division I. I think with creating a “superconference” and a Division III, it encourages players to transfer out of their home school into another school just for football and not for education. There could be a gifted athlete at Roosevelt that wants to go and play at Roosevelt because that’s where his entire family went, but will transfer to a team in the super conference because they won’t get any recognition or college looks because they played in Division III.

  27. Paul Honda October 18, 2013 1:48 pm

    Good point, Philip. I think once Division III opens up in the OIA (if ever), the other leagues will follow suit. It takes three teams to establish a championship sport. And it takes three leagues to get sanctioning from the HHSAA for a state championship.

    As it is right now, most of the teams that I would envision in D-III aren’t in position to play for a championship. Bob Wagner was an early proponent of D-III and he saw it as a statewide opportunity, not just for the BIIF, where it would thrive as well.

  28. Paul Honda October 18, 2013 1:54 pm

    Lene, I agree with you on the merits of combining. What about the smaller programs?

  29. Paul Honda October 18, 2013 1:55 pm

    Moke G – are you related to Kawika?

    I agree with you on the combo of the leagues. But I also like a D-III for the smaller programs. Anuenue is thinking about trying 8-man football since their varsity numbers might be low for the next couple of years. (They have a fairly large elementary-school base.)

  30. Paul Honda October 18, 2013 1:59 pm

    C-Reader, I don’t put much blame on Saint Louis in that situation.

    1. It was still the first half. Most coaches play their starters for a half in a blowout.

    2. They ran the ball. I really don’t mind any team that throws or runs in any situation. But they ran the ball, which to most fans is acceptable. They could’ve taken a knee for the final few minutes of the first half, but that would be silly.

    The question is, how does a D-I/D-II overlapping schedule help either team? In this era, the smaller programs clearly don’t have the resources to keep pace with the brand-name schools.

  31. CriticalReader October 20, 2013 2:02 pm

    By Paul:

    “C-Reader, I don’t put much blame on Saint Louis in that situation.

    1. It was still the first half. Most coaches play their starters for a half in a blowout.

    2. They ran the ball. I really don’t mind any team that throws or runs in any situation. But they ran the ball, which to most fans is acceptable. They could’ve taken a knee for the final few minutes of the first half, but that would be silly.


    1. Look at Punahou’s game summaries from games with DII teams. Second stringers in 1st

    2. 2 out of the 3 plays I highlighted from the St. Louis v. P5 game were (one with the score 28-7, the other with the score 35-7) were passes. From Kuhns.

  32. footballfan2013 October 25, 2013 7:56 am

    What a fantastic idea, you would have new rivalries sprouting up all over the place, I would love to see those games. I think such a format would increase the skill level of football for all schools involved.
    I think the only issue might be traveling expenses? Maybe, who knows? However, a great idea.

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