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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, April 25, 2001

Officials try to save state tourneys

 •  Prep teams await state tourney's fate

By Dennis Anderson
Advertiser Staff Writer

Superintendent of Schools Paul LeMahieu pulled the plug on this spring's eight state high school sports championships yesterday afternoon, but backed off less than four hours later after what his spokesman called an "astounding" reaction by the public.

Keith Amemiya, executive director of the Hawai'i High School Athletic Association, said LeMahieu called him after 8 p.m. to discuss the superintendent's announcement a few hours earlier that ". . . public schools will not participate in state tournaments because of the travel time during the school instructional day required for competition."

Fourteen days of school have been lost because of the teachers' strike that started April 5 ended with ratification of a new contract last night.

"We agreed that everybody involved should put our heads together and think of ways that we can still hold some or all of the state tournaments, with the understanding that no class time can be missed by any of our students," Amemiya said.

"He is open to suggestions and I commend him for reconsidering," Amemiya added.

Greg Knudsen, information officer for the Department of Education, said: "The reaction from the public has been astounding. I have been on the phone in my office constantly since the evening news.

"So many people are upset that we owe it to them to give this a closer examination."

"People didn't just call to complain," Knudsen said. "They offered solutions and alternatives and the solutions seemed to make sense. I'm hopeful that it can be resolved in an accommodation. . ."

Knudsen said LeMahieu was open to a re-evaluation of the position as long as a method can be found to preserve instructional time.

"He is impressed with the alternatives that have been mentioned that suggest ways that minimize disruption of classroom activity," Knudsen said.

"Implementation (of LeMahieu's order) will put on hold until the re-evaluation is completed."

Winston Sakurai, first vice chair of the school board, said late last night that, "We'll have an update on the status of the tournaments hopefully by (this) afternoon."

Regardless of what happens to state championships, regular league games and tournaments on all islands will resume next week.

The 19-day teachers' strike stopped all sports in Hawai'i's public high schools. Campuses were closed and coaches were not allowed to meet with their teams.

The state championships, already postponed because of the teachers' strike, were to be held over three weeks between May 10-25 and would have fallen on 15 school days and two Saturdays. Two events are scheduled to be held on O'ahu, three on Maui and one on Kaua'i, requiring travel for many participants.

Spring championships are held in baseball, girls basketball, boys and girls golf, boys and girls tennis and boys and girls track and field.

The withdrawal of 44 public schools would leave only the private-school Interscholastic League of Honolulu and a few private schools on Maui and the Big Island as potential state participants.

Clay Benham, executive secretary of the ILH, declared firmly last night that, "We have no intention of participating in any state championship without the public schools. Unless all schools are eligible, it ceases to be a state tournament."

Amemiya said the HHSAA would lose $50,000 in sponsors' fees and gate receipts if the tournaments are canceled. Profits are used to administer future tournaments.

The 22 athletic directors of O'ahu's public high schools will meet today to decide on new schedules, executive secretary Dwight Toyama said.

Baseball, track and field, tennis and golf schedules will have to be adjusted to avoid missing class time, but varsity basketball games are all played at night so no class time is missed.

"We'll regroup and do the best we can to salvage what we have left to try to give our kids the most opportunities without compromising class time," Toyama said.

"It's going to take a lot of juggling," he said. "We have to come up with some creative ideas."

For example, the Kahuku at Kaiser baseball game, scheduled for a weekday, will be moved to Saturday because of the long bus drive. Only nearby schools will play each other in baseball on weekdays.

Practices can resume today, Toyama said, and the first games can be played on Tuesday.

Toyama and other administrators said that athletes should have a week of formal practice before they test their muscles under the intensity of game or meet conditions.

No sports events involving public schools have been held since the teachers went on strike April 5.

OIA girls basketball coordinator Mel Imai of Kailua said a schedule had been devised for teams to play all their regular-season games. They have missed five or six each and the regular season was to have ended Friday.

The Maui Interscholastic League already canceled its regular-season schedule and has drafted championship tournaments for baseball (eight teams) and girls basketball (nine teams), to be played only on weekends. "We studied it and made it a point not to miss any school days, even though interisland travel was involved," said Stephen N. Kim, executive secretary of the MIL.

LeMahieu also temporarily suspended the 2.0 grade-point average requirement to be eligible for sports or other activities and said all students will be eligible until the next grade check on May 11.