Continue attempts to improve high school sports playoffs
After changes, controversy continues to surround post-season competition in Hawaii's high school sports.
Tiny Milan High School's basketball team stunned Indiana in 1954 by toppling an urban team for the state's championship, inspiring the movie "Hoosiers." Like other states, Indiana no longer pits small schools against large ones in state tournaments, but Hawaii's system needs further refinement to achieve fairness.
That is a greater challenge in Hawaii than in other states because of travel restrictions that result in large and small schools being members of the same conference on the same island. It is complicated by the ability of large private schools to excel; Punahou won 16 state titles this year.
The Oahu Interscholastic Association, the state's largest high school sports league, has been using a power rating rather than enrollment as the determining factor for placement in post-season playoffs. As a result, Farrington, the state's second-largest high school, narrowly won the state Division II title this year against Aiea, half its size.
Meanwhile, La Pietra, a 150-student member of the private-school Interscholastic League of Honolulu, was elevated briefly to Division I after winning the Division II basketball title in 2007 and losing its entire starting lineup. The league came to its senses and dropped the rule's implementation.
A team of Star-Bulletin sports staffers has suggested an improvement to the system, tied mainly to enrollment. First, single-gender schools' enrollments should be doubled to reflect availability of competitors in sports, nearly all of which are single-gender.
Like other states, Hawaii also should multiply enrollments at private schools by 1.5 to reflect their advantages. Star-Bulletin sports reporter Paul Honda points out that the equation would require some private schools, such as Sacred Hearts and Saint Louis, to participate in the upper division.
The regular-season leagues for all sizes need not change, thus disrupting traditional rivalries. However, schools participating in Oahu's lower division should be limited to post-season competition based on their enrollments.
Keith Amemiya, executive director of the statewide athletic association, points out Hawaii cannot easily look to other states for guidance. "We've realized that because of Hawaii's unique situation there isn't any one particular state that has a model we can follow," he told the Star-Bulletin. "We've been forced to improvise and take sections from several different states."
The association has performed well in doing so, but the system needs continued examination for further improvement. Above all, changes should not result in punishment for a school's past success or reward for a school's past failure on the playing fields. Division state tournaments should reward the small schools for which they were designed.