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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, May 20, 2003

Benham helped boost high school athletics

By Dennis Anderson
Advertiser Staff Writer

Who is Clay Benham and why should such a prestigious award be named after him?

Clayton W. Benham was the executive in charge of the Interscholastic League of Honolulu from its founding in its present form in 1970 until his death on April 29, 2002, at age 81.

"He was the heart and soul of the ILH," retired Punahou School athletic director Ralph Martinson said.

And at the core of Clay Benham was his determination to make high-school sports available to as many students as possible. He championed the addition of sports such as girls water polo, kayaking and paddling to get more kids involved.

He helped the ILH create its successful Division II, which permits small schools to play opponents their own size and allows large schools to have second-tier teams of athletes less skilled than their No. 1 varsity.

Benham worked ceaselessly for inclusion and for treating every student-athlete and every sport with equal respect. "In all his decisions, he always had the best interest of the student-athlete at heart," said former sportswriter Frank Mauz.

Benham's widow, Marian, brother Roy and other family members enthusiastically endorsed the request to name the all-sports championship for him.

Benham was an alumnus of the Kamehameha Schools (class of 1940) and coached and taught there (1954-82). If the award is to be named the Benham Cup, his alma mater would win the first one.

What is the award?

If the award is named the Benham Cup, it would be similar to the former Sears Cup (now the National Association of College Directors of Athletics Cup), the most prestigious honor for college athletics programs.

It measures competitive excellence of an entire athletic program, and makes no distinction for so-called "major and minor sports." Every sport is considered equal and receives points for its finish in state championship events on the same scale.

In the future, bonus points for sportsmanship (probably voted on by tournament officials) and academic achievement (aggregate GPAs of teams in state tournaments) could be added.

When will the winners get trophies?

Aye, there's the rub. Until a sponsor steps forward, the overall, boys and girls awards are symbolic. There are no actual cups yet.

Dennis Anderson has been covering high school sports in Hawai'i for The Honolulu Advertiser for more than 20 years. Reach Anderson at 236-3654 or at dennis@lava.net.