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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Thursday, June 12, 2003

Statewide classification likely for prep football

 •  Volleyball switching to rally scoring

By Wes Nakama
Advertiser Staff Writer

KA'ANAPALI, Maui — Statewide classification finally looks like a reality for Hawai'i high school football this fall, after a recommendation for a Division II tournament passed by a 15-14 vote at the Hawai'i Interscholastic Athletic Directors Association conference last night.

The proposal, submitted by Hawai'i High School Athletic Association executive director Keith Amemiya, still must win the final vote at tomorrow morning's general assembly of the 82 member schools represented at the Sheraton Maui. But even O'ahu Interscholastic Association football coordinator Richard Townsend, whose league was the proposal's main objector, acknowledged the recommendation likely will gain the needed 42 votes tomorrow.

Townsend also said the proposal should have little problem being approved by the HHSAA board of directors at its meeting next week, which would make the Division II tournament official.

Statewide classification for football already is in place everywhere else in the nation. Under its current format, Hawai'i's is the only state tournament that does not take into account school enrollment or strength of a school's football program.

"(Last night's vote) is a positive sign, but only the first step to a long process," said Amemiya, who remained cautious about tomorrow's vote. "I don't want to jinx it. But this is significant in that (a similar) proposal was defeated soundly in committee the past two years."

The main difference with this year's recommendation, Townsend said, was Amemiya's guarantee of financial solvency. In the proposal, Amemiya and his wife, Bonnie, pledge to absorb any monetary losses incurred by the Division II tournament.

"I think that was a big sell," said Townsend, who is the athletic director at Leilehua High School. "He financially guaranteed that no one would take a loss. We'll take his word for it."

In the past, the cost of running such a tournament and fear of low revenue were major roadblocks to classification. Townsend said prior to the inaugural state tournament in 1999, OIA schools each received a $6,000 share from profits generated by the O'ahu Prep Bowl game between the OIA champion and Interscholastic League of Honolulu champ.

Now, Townsend said, OIA schools each receive less than $2,000 as their share from the state tournament profits.

Townsend and other OIA athletic directors also raised concerns about the logistics of starting a Division II tournament, such as gender-equity issues, representation of leagues and distribution of funds.

"To us, there are so many unanswered questions," Townsend said.

Amemiya said he has faith the details could later be worked out by an HHSAA committee made up of representatives from each league.

"My position is, let's try something and see if it works," said Amemiya, who has noted the recommendation is for this year only.

As for gender-equity concerns, Amemiya's proposal stipulates that he and his wife will donate $20,000 towards travel expenses for the 2004 state softball and girls basketball tournaments. A recommendation to classify a girls sport also unanimously passed a committee vote, meaning a girls sport to be named later also will have a Division II state tournament.

But for now, the victory is for small football programs, which some say had no realistic chance to win a state tournament in the past.

"I think it's great to allow smaller schools a chance to get that feeling," said Jon Kobayashi, who coached small, remote Waimea High School to three state semifinals in the past four years. "It'll help a lot more athletes and give them the opportunity to win a state championship. I think that's the main focus."