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HHSAA board votes against cutting state tourney participation


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POSTED: Thursday, January 15, 2009

There will not be shrinking of the state tournaments, at least not this spring.

Voting members of the Hawaii High School Athletic Association executive board voted against a measure that would have reduced the field for each 12-team tournament to eight. All leagues with the exception of the Oahu Interscholastic Association elected to leave current formats the way they are at yesterday's meeting in the Oahu Interscholastic Association office at Radford High School.

A change in the numbers would have affected baseball, softball and boys volleyball. The leagues had discussed the issue in a December meeting, but yesterday's vote reversed that plan.

The notion of cutting the tournament size by 50 percent was initiated by OIA executive director Dwight Toyama, who noted the need for all DOE participants to be fiscally prudent. Recent cuts have shaved $123 million, affecting athletic budgets by 50 percent.

However, the Maui Interscholastic League, Big Island Interscholastic Federation, Kauai Interscholastic Federation and Interscholastic League of Honolulu stressed the importance of keeping postseason opportunities available to current student-athletes. The burden of raising funds for travel costs, which have increased significantly in the past year, should not cause a drastic change, MIL officials said.

"Sure, it's taxing for the community, but it's a chance for the teams to do well. Somehow, some way, they find a way," MIL executive director Joseph Balangitao said, noting that the highly competitive programs always start fundraising early in the year. At Lahainaluna, football coach Bobby Watson spearheads kalua pig fundraisers, Balangitao said. Other schools raise funds by working at pro golf tournaments.

Toyama didn't believe that the financial burden asked of neighbor island teams would be fair.

"Joe's point is well taken, but schools have to fundraise and it's $15,000 per team to travel," he said, noting that the closure of Molokai Ranch and job layoffs by Maui Pineapple and Land have added to the strain.

MIL president Randy Yamanuha said the benefits outweigh the costs.

"Winter sports are what schools like Molokai, Hana and Lanai excel at," he said of the Division II programs. "They don't have football, but their (winter) teams are good. If we tell them, we're going to cut state berths, that's a big, big deal to them."

Despite distance and financial challenges, Balangitao noted that supporters from the MIL are always willing to dig deep to see their teams play at the state tourney.

"When Molokai (volleyball) went, I saw 20, maybe 30 people from there at the match," he said.

ILH president Richard Schaffer echoed the sentiments of the MIL.

"We don't want to rush into (a change). The players and parents have planned for the chance to play in the state tournament. We don't want to take that away from them," Schaffer said.

Toyama recalled the concerns of the late BIIF chief Ken Yamase, who once asked whether his league would be responsible for sending a replacement team if any state-qualifying squad couldn't afford to travel to a state tourney.

Pahoa's boys volleyball team was short on funds last year, even with fundraisers, and was in danger of not going to the state tourney despite qualifying. In Pahoa's case, the funds came through just before the tourney because of community support.

Much of the meeting revolved around cost-cutting measures. The BIIF has saved some funds by renting more vans and fewer buses. In some arrangements, Kealakehe and Konawaena—12 miles apart—have shared vehicles for long drives across the island, BIIF interim executive director Lyle Crozier said.

In the MIL, athletic programs are designated Division I or II for all sports. That allows each school to send boys and girls teams to away games in a single bus, Balangitao noted. Playing more day games is a way to save on electrical bills, Yamanuha added.

The executive board also examined changes in state berth allotments due to dropouts in different leagues. In boys paddling, the BIIF and ILH gained one berth each due to dropouts from the OIA. The BIIF also gained a berth in girls paddling due to OIA dropouts.