Tuesday, April 26, 2016

ILH-OIA football (re)union proposed

[5/4/16] The Interscholastic League of Honolulu voted unanimously Tuesday to approve the proposed union of its football teams with the Oahu Interscholastic Association for the coming season, according to two trusted Honolulu Star-Advertiser sources close to the league.

Under the proposal, a 10-team Open “power” division would be formed by three ILH schools and seven OIA schools, with the top six in the nine-game regular season moving on to that division’s state tournament.

With ILH approval, the proposal moves on to the OIA for a vote. It is not known when or where that vote will take place.

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[4/26/16] A new era in Oahu high school football could be on the horizon.

If a new proposal continues to gain steam, a union of the Oahu Interscholastic Association and the Interscholastic League of Honolulu could be here faster than you can say “high-speed rail.”

Fans have been clamoring for a competitive reorganization for years, and this plan — for football only — is getting traction behind the scenes.

According to trusted Honolulu Star-Advertiser sources, ILH principals will vote May 3 whether to approve the restructuring. That is the first of three big hurdles. If it passes there, votes by OIA principals and then by the Hawaii High School Athletic Association would follow. Sources say the plan has support among key decision-makers within the OIA and overwhelming overall support from the ILH and HHSAA.

Sources said the realignment plan, which would reunite public and private schools in the regular season for the first time since their split after the 1969 season, was developed by former HHSAA Executive Director Keith Amemiya, OIA Executive Director Ray Fujino, ILH Executive Director Blane Gaison and ILH assistant Georges Gilbert.

The three-year pilot project — presently called the OIA-ILH Football Alliance — would be reviewed annually and calls for an Open Division of 10 teams playing a nine-game regular-season schedule. There would also be a 10-team Division I and a nine-team Division II.

IN THE OPEN Division, the ILH’s three prominent football programs — Saint Louis, Kamehameha and Punahou — would join seven top OIA football teams to be determined by that league. Sources believe six of the seven would be chosen based on on-field performance throughout the years — Kahuku, Mililani, Waianae, Kapolei, Farrington and Campbell. Several other schools would have the potential to be the seventh school, including Leilehua, Kailua and Kaiser.

One of the goals in expanding to a three-tier system is to eliminate or reduce the number of blowouts that result when perennial powers play side by side with teams that sporadically or never reach such heights. Last season, McKinley, which in a down year struggled to put enough players on the field, lost to eventual state champion Kahuku 78-0 and Waianae 90-0 in back-to-back weeks.

The aim is to create competitive balance by pairing similarly talented schools against each other every week, cutting down on routs and forfeits. If games are more competitive, the hope is fan interest will increase; one source said high-ranking officials from both leagues believe the football revenue would grow significantly because of the better matchups.

AFTER THE REGULAR season, the top six teams in the standings would move on to the Open Division state tournament, likely marking the first time more than one ILH team qualifies.

One of the concerns that stood in the way of past proposals of this sort was the issue of recruiting and transfers. Public school football players from the OIA sometimes opted to switch schools and receive a paid education at a private school in the ILH, leading to the rich getting richer on the football field and the public schools losing star players.

UNDER THE NEW format, if approved, transferring players would need to sit out two years before playing, a strict measure that would ensure in most cases that once a player enters a high school, he or she is not lured away to another one.

Another concern was the apportionment of gate receipts. Because the OIA has more schools (22) than the ILH (seven), an equitable system was never seriously considered and would have been difficult to hammer out. Now, whatever loss, if any, in gate revenue the OIA takes by forming this alliance would be regained through a $3 million ($1 million per year) donation from local business groups. The money would go to every Oahu public high school for their athletic departments (not just football). According to sources, Amemiya has numerous pledges toward that figure already. Sources also said that two former Hawaii high school football stars now in the NFL, Marcus Mariota of the Tennessee Titans and Manti Te’o of the San Diego Chargers, have pledged their support.

FOR SOME an OIA-ILH alliance would have the potential to restore some of the shine from the glory days of football, that pre-1970 period that is talked about by the old-timers with reverence, when the old Honolulu Stadium was filled with 25,000 spectators for rivalry games such as Roosevelt vs. Punahou and Farrington vs. Kamehameha. Prep football was king in those days, when Thanksgiving Day games were the season’s centerpiece.

Prep football was so big then that Farrington’s historic victory over Kameha­meha in 1965 was splashed across the front page of the Honolulu Star-Bulletin with a headline reading, “The Day the Govs Won It All.”
That story, written by Jim Becker, galvanized the Kalihi community and forged lifetime friendships. In fact, members of that team, including Stan Cadiente, Walter Rodrigues, Ambrose Costa, Jim Kalili and Tom Gushiken, would meet annually to celebrate that victory.

If this new proposal passes, some old rivalries could be renewed, and new ones would likely be formed.

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