Star-Bulletin Sports

Friday, June 28, 2002


Next Molokai AD
faces unique challenges

Ginoza's departure leaves
an opening at a school that
struggles to make ends meet

By Jason Kaneshiro

Molokai High School is looking for a new athletics director, and whoever takes the job must be willing to dive into a sea of red ink.

Current Molokai athletics director Kurt Ginoza is slated to take the same job at the new Kamehameha-Maui campus in Pukalani in July, leaving a vacancy at the state's most financially challenged program.

"Molokai's unique, you have to be able to work with the community, but you also have to balance the fiscal side of it," said Ginoza.

Before he heads to Kamehameha-Maui, Ginoza is awaiting word on how much money the Molokai athletic department will be allocated from the state for the next school year. Even if Molokai avoids a budget cut, the allotment likely won't come close to covering the costs involved in running a 14-sport program separated from its competitors by miles of ocean.

"It's really hard for them," Maui Interscholastic League executive secretary Stephen Kim said. "The money they get from the state is only a fraction of what it needs because of the travel."

Ginoza said the Farmers fly to Maui for MIL road games about 85 times per year, excluding postseason tournaments, and spent around $80,000 this school year in travel expenses.

Lanai is in a similar situation, but participates in fewer sports and can use a ferry to transport teams to Maui. Ginoza said the ferry connecting Molokai and Lahaina isn't an attractive option for the school financially or logistically.

Ginoza said the department was able to shave a few dollars off each trip this year by using some of the smaller airlines serving the island. The school also received a gender equity grant to implement junior varsity girls programs and paddling, which helped the department survive this year.

The MIL assists by having the Central Maui public schools -- Maui, Baldwin and King Kekaulike -- contribute a portion of their travel budgets to Molokai and adjusting the league schedule to cut down on the Farmers' off-island games.

Still, the department faces an annual shortfall of more than $20,000.

"If you send a basketball team, you're talking a couple grand already," Kim said. "And we're not talking about going to a state tournament, we're talking about just competing within the league."

Molokai fields 26 varsity teams and supports JV squads in boys and girls basketball, girls tennis, and track and field. Each of the JV teams play limited league schedules and must raise their own funds to play games, all of them on Maui.

Kim said Molokai's spring sports -- including the two-time state champion baseball program -- are annually placed in limbo after the fall and winter seasons take their bite of the budget.

It took sizable donations from the state, individuals and nonprofit organizations to keep the athletic department afloat the past several years. Three years ago the school organized a concert on Oahu that raised $25,000 for the athletic department.

"I know in the OIA we grumble about our transportation budget and running out of money by the end of the winter season, but I know it's not even close to what they're dealing with on Molokai," said Kapolei AD Elden Esmeralda, who spent 2 1/2 years at Molokai. "It's truly a community effort."

Ronald Kimball, a former basketball coach at Molokai, helped fund the Friends of Molokai High School Foundation last July to assist the school financially.

Kimball serves as president of the foundation's nine-member board. He said the athletic department's plight provided the inspiration for the foundation's origin, but the group raises money for the entire school. He said the group's goal is to raise $50,000 this year and that it is approaching the $20,000 mark.

"We're trying to get the alumni on our island organized," Kimball said. "They've been kind of a loose-knit organization, so we're trying to use this foundation to give them something to focus on. ... I really feel this thing will only be as successful as the alumni want to make it."

While the school covers airfare and ground transportation and teams often spend the night at school gyms on Maui, the student-athletes pay for meals out of their own pockets.

"People in the state don't understand what our Molokai families go through," Kimball said. "If you have a two- or three-sport athlete, the parents really eat it. As a coach you try to make sure (the players) eat well, but within what the parents can afford. It's a lot of McDonalds, a lot of Burger King.

"If your child makes the volleyball team, the basketball team and the baseball team, you're coughing up 50 bucks every other weekend for nine months."

Kimball said the foundation hopes to someday establish a $1 million endowment to cover expenses and provide scholarships. But for now it's up to the teams to help raise money to fund their trips. Which means more car washes and chicken sales.

"Coming in, (the new athletics director) is going to have to develop good relations with the community," Ginoza said. "They're our biggest resource here."

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