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Smaller tourneys could hurt state sports coffers


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POSTED: Sunday, June 14, 2009

No eight-team football tournaments this year, that is if the HHSAA executive board goes with the ADs' recommendation. And other tournaments down from 12 teams to eight.

Everybody cites the economy, which is really convenient these days. But the reality is the leagues that lose out most — the neighbor islands' — pay their own travel expenses to the largely Oahu-based tournaments. And they've been against the reductions from the start.

It's about the kids. Wait, it's about the money.

So where do the fans figure in?

I rarely want to watch the ninth through 12th teams in a state tournament. They usually don't belong, quality-wise. Of course, there are exceptions, such as Punahou squeaking into the 12-team baseball tournament as the third ILH entry and winning four games to take its sixth-state title.

Four nights of Buffanblu baseball? Cha-ching, and that helps pay for other state tournaments that have no chance of avoiding red ink.

This is also something to think about with football. Two more games (many people hate the idea of byes for the top seeds), one involving the Interscholastic League of Honolulu runner-up — mo' money.

Not necessarily, says Don Botelho, executive director of the ILH. Eight was not great when the state football tournament had that many teams.

“;There were 12 games where a one (seed) played an eight and a two played a seven,”; Botelho said. “;Eleven were mercy-rule games and no one was in the stands.”;

I was also reminded that No. 2 in the ILH doesn't necessarily get one of those two berths if they were to go to eight. Some proposals include “;The Formula,”; an equation only Einstein could love, designed to prevent public school leagues from getting aced out of entries that might win a game in the consolation brackets.

Still, the days when Saint Louis and Kahuku could pound everybody else while barely trying are behind us. Enough solid programs exist now so that the first round of an eight-team Division I tournament isn't always going to be four mismatches.

By now you realize I have mixed feelings. So do many of the ADs.

If you don't win your league, you have no reason to complain about not being at states. As Greg McMackin says of his University of Hawaii Warriors, “;This isn't P.E. football.”; And neither are high school state tournaments. There is no divine right to compete in one if your team is second or lower in its league, regardless of how good you are.

But if the prep sports machine needs money, and it does, it's hard to think of a better fund-raiser than a second ILH team in the Division I football tournament. Most years, No. 2 in the ILH is one of the three or four best teams in the state.

So you ask, does the runner-up in a three-team league deserve to make the state tournament? Unfortunately, we're beyond what is deserved and need to do what is practical.

Give the fans what they want, even if it means the possibility of an all-ILH final. Don't forget that decreasing expenditures is just one way of making the budget. Increasing revenue works, too.

Scrap “;The Formula”; and do what really makes fiscal sense in tough fiscal times. It might even result in the best team winning the championship.

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Reach Star-Bulletin sports columnist Dave Reardon at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address), his “;Quick Reads”; blog at starbulletin.com, and twitter.com/davereardon