Preps move up change
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By Wes Nakama
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Wes Nakama
The much-debated "change of seasons" in three Hawai'i high school sports will take effect this coming school year, 12 months sooner than originally scheduled.
The Hawai'i High School Athletic Association's executive board voted in a special meeting Monday to move up the schedule change, which moves girls basketball from spring to winter, softball from winter to spring and boys volleyball from fall to spring.
According to an HHSAA press release distributed yesterday, "the timetable for the changes was moved up, in part, due to the board's desire not to wait a year and to thus immediately comply with any new Title IX (gender equity) requirements that may have resulted from the U.S. Supreme Court's recent decision in Communities for Equity vs. Michigan High School Athletic Association. Additionally, the board desired to reinforce the HHSAA's and its member schools' full commitment to gender equity and to forestall any lawsuits that may arise in light of the recent court decision."
That Supreme Court ruling on April 2 declined to hear an appeal of a lower court decision that ruled the MHSAA's scheduling of girls basketball in the fall discriminated against girls. It forced Michigan to move the girls season to winter, same as in 48 other states.
The HHSAA executive board then voted on April 26 for a similar change in Hawai'i, moving the three aforementioned sports.
The original plan called for the change to take effect in 2008-09, to give the state's five leagues time to adjust and find solutions to the many logistical problems that likely will arise.
But HHSAA executive director Keith Amemiya said that since that decision, the five board members — school principals from each of the state's five leagues — recently "agreed to revisit it and hold the special meeting."
Yesterday, top administrators from the O'ahu Interscholastic Association and Interscholastic League of Honolulu said their leagues will "find a way" to execute the switches.
"We would have wanted the extra time, but the board decided not to wait and that's fine," said Don "Spud" Botelho, the ILH's executive director. "It impacts everybody, but we just have to adapt and work with it."
Botelho said his league's athletic directors addressed the situation briefly during their regularly scheduled meeting last week, but nothing specific was decided upon except that the ILH sport coordinators for the impacted programs would have to meet soon to work out the logistics.
Having both boys and girls basketball in the winter and softball and baseball in the spring could create crowded situations on fields and in gyms.
Botelho said the possibility of moving JV programs out of season to relieve the congestion "has to be considered."
OIA executive secretary Dwight Toyama said his league's athletic directors also addressed the situation at its monthly meeting on Monday, but discussion mostly consisted of "brainstorming."
"Basically we're (in) the same (stage), we're struggling," Toyama said. "One idea was to move JV softball to the fall and JV baseball to the winter. We already had four volleyball teams (varsity and JV, boys and girls) sharing a gym in the fall, so it would be the same thing for basketball.
"But the tough one is softball and baseball, because a lot of (schools) use the same field for both."
Toyama said moving up the schedule change one year won't make that much of a difference one way or another as far as the logistical problems with facilities.
"The same problems are going to exist," he said. "I don't think we're going to get any new fields or gyms (soon)."
Toyama also said finding enough officials for the now-crowded basketball, softball and baseball schedules is a problem.
"(The change) is a huge challenge," Toyama said, "but we'll try to make it work."
University of Hawai'i civil rights specialist Jill Nunokawa, an attorney who has been a leading advocate for moving the girls basketball season here from spring to winter since 1993, said after the HHSAA board's April 26 decision that there was no reason the changes could not be implemented immediately.
"We need to make this happen next (school) year," said Nunokawa, who played basketball at Kaiser and UH. "Hawai'i has been on notice for 12 years, and that's more than enough time to comply. I had no doubt they would vote to change, because they don't have a choice. That's not a surprise, but (the change) should happen now, not (in 2008). 'Justice delayed is justice denied;' that's been a mantra for many movements in our country."
But yesterday, Charles Heaukulani, a Big Island attorney and girls basketball/girls soccer coach and parent, said he has an interest to "go into a process and make formal contact with the HHSAA" to find an alternate solution.
Heaukulani said he has had several parents and coaches call him with concerns about the impending change in seasons and he wants to investigate the process at which the HHSAA reached its decision.
"I respect Jill and Keith, and I understand each of their positions," Heaukulani said. "But I think justice means a lot of things ... If everybody's heart is in the right place and this is something we can fix and make better ... maybe we can accomplish the same goals in a way that does not open up other (problems)."
Reach Wes Nakama at firstname.lastname@example.org.