COLLEGE / PREP FOOTBALL
Fans forced to choose between UH, preps
Barry Markowitz is torn. He'd love to be at the University of Hawaii football opener today against Northern Colorado for both professional and personal reasons, but in the end he'll be cheering on his son, Abe, as Punahou takes on Leilehua.
Markowitz, a journalist who photographs UH football games, plans to tailgate with family at Aloha Stadium and shoot as much as he can of the first quarter vs. the Bears, then boost over to Wahiawa, where Abe's Buffanblu play the Mules 1 hour later.
"It's trying to make the most out of an unfortunate conflict of interest," Markowitz said. Abe, who is half Samoan, is related to current Warriors Brashton and Hercules Satele, Amani Purcell, B.J. Fruean and Lafu Tuioti-Mariner. A college prospect, he was invited to pick up free tickets for the game. "It just goes on and on that the blood ties and family ties are so deep for the Warriors, that every time my son gets to watch a game, he's just so focused. This is his family."
Markowitz's dilemma is likely to be shared this weekend by many families who must choose between a relative or family friend, or the UH season tickets they paid for. This week, six high school games coincide with the UH football opener.
A perfect storm of interleague games with the Interscholastic League of Honolulu, lack of field availability and finite referee staffing led to the increase in games shifted from Friday to Saturday this week, Oahu Interscholastic Association executive director Dwight Toyama explained. Whenever possible, his aim is to have no more than three or four Saturday games.
But it can't be helped, according to Toyama, especially with so many schools (Kaimuki, Farrington, Kalaheo, Kalani, McKinley, Anuenue) with no field to call their own.
Similar problems were faced in the UH home openers in 2003 (six high school games) and 2004 (seven games).
OIA scheduling coordinator Harold Tanaka explained that interleague games are set first, then games to appear on OC 16, and finally games at whatever home fields are left. Then, there's the referee factor.
"We don't want to water down the officials, spread 'em all over," Tanaka said. More than 100 referees are needed on any given weekend. "We did (notice) it was opening day for UH, and we were like, 'Oh, my God.' "
It does get better. After this week's UH opener, there are only three, four and one high school games scheduled on UH home weeks against Charleston Southern, Utah State and New Mexico State. Toyama and Tanaka said all efforts are made to keep games on Friday as much as possible -- and not only for the fans.
"If we had our way, we'd love to have everybody play on Friday night because our coaches would be happy, yeah?" Tanaka said. "They all want to watch UH football, too."
UH fans with McKinley ties have it the worst. The Tigers play games each Saturday for the Warriors' first three games at Aloha Stadium. Over the first four home weeks, Punahou, Kamehameha, Castle and Kalaheo games also conflict with two of those dates.
Nalani Choy, a UH season-ticket holder with her husband since 1989, renounced their tickets two years ago because it got too difficult to attend UH games and also support their son Kaha'i at his Kamehameha football games, as well as the intermediate football games played by younger son Pono.
But because it's shaping up to be such a big year for UH football, the Choys were willing to give it another shot. They have tickets near the south end zone, where the Warriors rush out of the tunnel and onto the field. The only problem is, Kaha'i, a senior O-lineman, plays on two of the first three UH home dates of the season.
"We're UH supporters; we want to see the stadium packed every game," Choy said. "It's the season opener, so we're disappointed we're going to miss it, but if we have a conflict, we're going to have to pick our son."
UH associate athletic director John McNamara said he understands scheduling realities. Earlier this week, he estimated about 34,000 tickets would be issued for today's game, although he said it was impossible to guess how many people would miss the game to see a high school contest.
"Sometimes logistically, it's impossible to avoid (conflicts)," McNamara said. "We have football, volleyball and soccer, just on our own front. While we might have fans torn, it works both ways."
Can Toyama sympathize?
"Oh, definitely, definitely," he said. But he pointed out a similar impact has occurred when UH has scheduled a nationally televised game at Aloha Stadium on a Friday in recent years.
"Typically, the Friday nights (are) supposed to be high school football -- the unwritten rule kind of thing," he said.
The lines have blurred on both sides. Oceanic Time Warner Cable's high school football coverage is expanding to cover a Saturday game each week of the season for the first time in its 19 years, although that didn't factor much into the number of games slotted on a given Saturday, Toyama said. OC 16's manager of sports, Dave Vinton, echoed that.
Since there were going to be games scheduled every Saturday anyway, the station was in prime position to nearly double its coverage, Vinton said.
"We're just fans of high school football, and we know that the demand is there to see more games," he said. "We expanded to Saturday because we knew games would be available, and that was pretty much it."
In the meantime, nothing gets easier for fans in the same boat as Markowitz and Choy.
"It's nobody's fault," said Markowitz, a former linebacker at UCLA. "We don't hold anybody to blame. I'm sure they did whatever they did thinking it was in the best interest of everybody."