Star-Bulletin Sports

Tuesday, January 26, 1999

H A W A I I _P R E P _ F O O T B A L L

OIA dumps
Prep Bowl

Oahu's public school principals
terminate their league's participation
in the postseason football game

By Pat Bigold


Declaring, ''We're not going to bend to them anymore," Interscholastic League of Honolulu executive secretary Clay Benham last night seemed to nail the coffin shut on the Prep Bowl.

After 26 years, the postseason football classic pitting the champions of the ILH and the Oahu Interscholastic Association against each other came to an end yesterday when OIA principals voted 21-0 at the Pearl Country Club to secede from the event.

In the final game last November, the first in which two nationally ranked teams faced each other, St. Louis School won its 13th straight bowl crown with a victory over Kahuku. The last time the OIA won a Prep Bowl was 1984.

The war between the ILH and OIA is over an eligibility rule.

After the Hawaii High School Athletic Association agreed last spring to sanction the Prep Bowl, even though it was not a state championship game, the OIA insisted the ILH follow a guideline on eligibility consistent with OIA and HHSAA policy.

That guideline requires senior athletes to use up their postseason eligibility in four consecutive years. The ILH allows its athletes to use their four years in five. The OIA insists that gives the ILH an unfair opportunity to ''redshirt" its athletes.

''If they (OIA) want to give it up, we're not going to bend to them anymore," said Benham.

''We've bent to them on TV and everything else. But as far as my principals are concerned, our rule is a better rule."

Benham said he will call a meeting of the ILH principals ''as soon as possible" to discuss the matter.

The leagues had squabbled over the issue in September but tabled it until this month when the ILH principals met to reaffirm their stance on eligibility.

''That's what prompted our vote," said Aiea principal Gary Griffiths, president of the OIA.

All indications now point to Hawaii's five prep football leagues coalescing into an HHSAA-operated state tournament.

That eventuality could result in sorely needed sponsorship money for the association.

''I would advocate a state tournament if the leagues want it and if the public obviously wants one," HHSAA executive director Keith Amemiya said yesterday. ''Hawaii and California are the only two states that don't have a state tournament."

Star-Bulletin calls to athletic directors on neighbor islands revealed no opposition to a state tournament.

''We have wanted this for a long time," said Konawaena athletic director Lyle Crozier. ''At the HIADA (Hawaii Interscholastic Athletic Directors Association) meeting last spring, the BIIF (Big Island Interscholastic Federation) made a proposal and it was shot down."

Any proposal for a state tournament will have to be put before the ADs at this year's HIADA conference. If it is endorsed, the matter will then go before the HHSAA's five-member executive board for final action.

Benham said it's likely the ILH would join a state tournament format in which the league would ultimately have to put aside its stand on eligibility.

''As in all other (HHSAA) sports," said Benham, ''in fairness to our kids, we'd have to allow them to participate."

Griffiths said there was little discussion before the unanimous vote.

''I think most felt they were in a situation where they had no choice, believing in what we stood for for quite a few years," said Griffiths.

''We've always believed in the eight consecutive semesters and we've always believed there should be an even playing field. Everybody realized that no matter how painful the vote was, it had to be taken. There's a financial pain connected with this, too."

Prep Bowl XXVI was a financial success with an Aloha Stadium turnstile count of 20,959 and about 8,000 households subscribing at $12.95 apiece to watch the game on Oceanic Cable's pay-per-view channel.

The 27 OIA and ILH schools received 40 percent of the TV revenue. It was the first time that the ILH had agreed to allow telecasting of the event.

Griffiths indicated he would support TV coverage for a state football championship.

''I think the Oceanic agreement was terrific for the Prep Bowl," he said. ''I think it was an indication that folks out there really want this. In tough economic times it was super family entertainment for a reasonable price."

He said he has no reason to believe Amemiya would oppose TV.

But Benham is on record as saying he would oppose another TV venture on the grounds that it affected the gate.

''I think it's sad that this (Prep Bowl) is gone because it was unique," said Griffiths. ''But I don't feel we had a choice."

Star-Bulletin reporter Cindy Luis contributed to this report.

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