Finances a key to D-II tournament
By Wes Nakama
Advertiser Staff Writer
The state football playoffs drew good reviews by giving smaller schools a shot at the championship.
Competitive games and storybook title runs made for many happy players and fans across the island chain.
But official word of Year II for Division II won't come until Jan. 29, when the Hawai'i High School Athletic Association's executive board will vote on the issue. The board is made up of the presidents of each of the state's five leagues.
The O'ahu Interscholastic Association raised the most questions when the tournament was approved at last summer's athletic directors conference, and OIA executive secretary Dwight Toyama said yesterday that cost remains his league's biggest concern.
"We always agreed with the concept, and to me it turned out great," Toyama said. "But we still don't know how it went financially, and we won't know for sure until we get the report."
HHSAA executive director Keith Amemiya, who submitted the proposal for the tournament the past three years, said he expects the final numbers to be ready in about two weeks. With roughly 8,500 fans attending the first-round and semifinal games, Amemiya expects Division II to at least break even. (The championship was held as part of a doubleheader with the Division I title game).
"A key was the sponsorship," Amemiya said. "First Hawaiian Bank donated $40,000 in cash, Hawaiian Airlines took care of the travel and Ohana Hotels sponsored the Neighbor Island teams staying on O'ahu. Zippy's provided meals for Lahainaluna and Baldwin on O'ahu."
The HHSAA had to pick up the tab for Neighbor Island hotels and ground transportation, plus travel for mixed officiating crews.
Attendance was estimated at 1,000 for the Lahainaluna-Hawai'i Prep game (at Maui's War Memorial Stadium), 2,500 for Damien-Kapolei (at 'Aiea), 1,500 for 'Aiea-Lahainaluna (at Kamehameha Schools' Kunuiakea Stadium) and 3,500 for Damien-Waimea (at Kaua'i's Vidinha Stadium).
Amemiya also noted that the games made money for the host schools/leagues, which got to keep concession revenue.
Besides cost, a major concern brought up by the OIA last summer was representation.
The leagues made their own determinations as far as who would be in Division I and Division II, and Amemiya said there were no objections when the lists came out.
The projections proved accurate, as none of the five tournament games was decided by more than 10 points. In fact, every game but 'Aiea's 24-14 victory over Lahainaluna was won by a touchdown or less, and even 'Aiea trailed Lahainaluna in the fourth quarter of that game.
'Aiea won the title by beating Damien, 9-7, on a late TD pass.
"The games were of good quality," Amemiya said. "We had a sponsor from 24-hour Fitness in town, and he watches a lot of big games in Southern California. He was very impressed with Damien and 'Aiea."
One of the few big complaints about the tournament, Amemiya acknowledged, was when Lahainaluna (the Maui Interscholastic League representative) entered with a 1-7-1 record. But the Lunas proved they belonged, upsetting Hawai'i Prep, 21-14, in the first round and building a fourth-quarter lead on 'Aiea.
"Unlike the Mainland, because of the travel, it's impossible for us to have all the Division II teams play only other Division II teams in the regular season," Amemiya said. "So unfortunately, you're going to have some teams come in with a .500 record or less (in the tournament). But the Division II records can be misleading, and Lahainaluna proved a lot of doubters wrong."
Still, Toyama said the issue needs to be raised again because it's possible for a Division II team to win their league championship (as Lahainaluna did in 2001, Hawai'i Prep in 2002 and Waimea both those years). That would mean sending a second-place team into the Division I tournament.
"As far as representation, I think we're still off," Toyama said.
Travel / sites
Amemiya said the tournament hit a couple of snags when it came to travel and game sites.
The main concern was raised with the semifinal game between 'Aiea and the winner of Hawai'i Prep-Lahainaluna. Had Hawai'i Prep won, the semifinal would have been in Kailua, Kona, forcing 'Aiea into last-minute travel arrangements on Thanksgiving weekend.
"In hindsight, that was not a good idea," Amemiya said. "But we can take steps to correct that in the future by confirming sites well ahead of time and locking them in. That was just part of the learning curve when you do something for the first time."
Snags and cost concerns notwithstanding, the tournament appeared to have accomplished what it set out to do, which is level the playing field a bit and give smaller programs a chance to compete for a state championship.
Many would agree that's a goal worth keeping for another year.
"You can always make things better, but overall I think most people agreed the games were a great success," Amemiya said.
Reach Wes Nakama at firstname.lastname@example.org or 535-2456.