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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, June 20, 2001

Damien's forfeiture bid raises questions

 •  Editorial: Damien is right to forfeit football games

By Wes Nakama
Advertiser Staff Writer

Damien Memorial High School's plan to forfeit its two Interscholastic League of Honolulu football games against St. Louis this season was not on the original agenda for today's scheduled ILH principals meeting.

But it's expected to be the hot topic of discussion now.

The issue appears to be one that Hawai'i's oldest league has never dealt with before.

According to Advertiser records dating to 1940, the only ILH forfeit in the past 61 seasons occurred in 1998, when St. Louis invoked a self-imposed forfeit against Kamehameha due to players breaking school rules during a preseason trip to Las Vegas.

Iolani withdrew from competition in the 1942, 1943 and 1944 seasons because the school was closed during World War II.

ILH president Tony Ramos, the principal at Kamehameha, said that since Damien has cited student safety as the primary reason for requesting the forfeits, the plan will be difficult to reject.

"We cannot really dictate to Damien what they should do, because it's hard to sanction a school when safety is the issue," Ramos said. "We had two schools (Iolani and Punahou) drop their JV programs a few years ago for the same reason. I think we need to be sympathetic to their situation and we just need to adjust as a league."

But Ramos did acknowledge that fairness is a concern. For example, the forfeits would give St. Louis two bye weeks — in essence, extra time to heal and prepare for its next opponents. Damien also would receive two bye weeks, while every other school will have no byes and must play St. Louis twice.

If the forfeits are honored, Ramos said, "how to schedule those byes is an issue." He said the Damien matter "is more complex" than just having two forfeits.

ILH executive secretary Clay Benham said the fairness of the forfeits will be reviewed at today's meeting.

"We'll discuss it the same way as we discuss all of our problems," Benham said. "How big (an issue) it is; that's still a question."

Ramos believes that Damien's decision, presented by school president Brother Gregory O'Donnell, has sincere intentions.

"They've done it in good faith," Ramos said. "He could have waited until the season to do it, but he wanted to do it now before we came out with the schedules. And it was not a unilateral decision. (O'Donnell) consulted with his staff and coaches before announcing it."

Meanwhile, Damien players and parents also have scheduled a meeting for today with school administrators. Kalei Meheula, president of a football parents' organization, said the purpose of the meeting is to voice concerns and have the administration explain why parents and players were not consulted on the decision to forfeit.

"We're looking for answers because the parents and players are upset," said Meheula, who has two sons on Damien's varsity team. "I see the kids and they're hurt; they feel betrayed. Right now, emotions are flying. We want to know, 'What was their strategy? What was their reasoning?' The only answer we've gotten so far is, 'Because (O'Donnell) said so.' I think it's a crock."

Meheula said O'Donnell, principal Mike Weaver, athletic director Herb Lloyd and head coach Chris Bisho are expected to attend the meeting.

She said the parents' ultimate goal is to have O'Donnell reconsider the decision to forfeit, and that the meeting is the first important step.

"We're not coming to yell; I'm hoping things don't get out of hand," Meheula said. "We're going to jot down our questions and ask them one at a time. I've heard other parents want to start a petition, or one even suggested calling the Catholic diocese, but I said, 'Let's take it one step at a time.' I don't know what the outcome will be, but if (O'Donnell) were to hear us out, take both sides of the argument and maybe reconsider, then I think we would all be more open-minded."