Star-Bulletin Sports

Thursday, April 26, 2001


ILH may expand
from within

By Jason Kaneshiro

Roster limitations imposed on Interscholastic League of Honolulu football teams next season may not have an impact on the scoreboard, but the rule could result in the league's first expansion since the mid-1970s.

The rule, which limits the number of players who can suit up for a team to 65, could lead to St. Louis fielding two varsity squads next season. St. Louis and Kamehameha carried more than 100 players on their rosters last year. The league's coaches are scheduled to meet next week to discuss possible expansion, which would be the first since Pac-Five entered the ILH.

Plans for the upcoming season will be finalized at the football coaches' annual workshop in June, but the decision on expansion rests with the league's principals.

"It's up to the principals," said Pac-Five coach and state football coordinator Don Botelho. "I'm sure there are some positives about it and there might be some negatives, we'll just have to sit down and look at the ramifications,"

The proposal by St. Louis coach Cal Lee would create an "A" team made up of the program's top players, and a "B" team, which would be made up primarily of sophomores and players who might normally be reserves.

"I don't think it will just be a junior varsity squad," Lee said. "You could have some seniors who right now may be on the second or third team, but could start. So you could use them that way."

While Kamehameha coach Kanani Souza said the number of players who may be excluded from the sidelines concerns him, he expressed reservations about fielding a second varsity team.

"That's tough for me to conceive," Souza said. "Do you want one really good varsity team and one that's not so good that has to play against St. Louis or play against Kamehameha? I think there's some safety issues there.

"If you divide it equally so both teams will have a chance to defend themselves, then you limit the opportunity for the best kids to achieve what they're trying to achieve."

A proposal to split the league into two divisions -- with St. Louis and Kamehameha's A teams, Punahou and Iolani making up one division, and Damien, Pac-Five and the B teams playing in the other -- may also face some resistance from coaches.

"Our program hasn't been very successful lately, but we still want to play in the ILH," said Damien coach Chris Bisho.

The roster limitation was initially passed last year based on the recommendations of a task force composed of principals, athletic directors and coaches charged with improving balance in the league. A motion to amend the rule was brought before the league's Board of Principals on March 15, but was voted down by an 8-7 margin.

The rule places no limit on the number of players who can practice with a team and does not cover preseason or state tournament games. The coaches must still determine whether the rule applies to the intermediate level as well as the varsity.

St. Louis has won 16 of the last 17 ILH championships and last year carried 108 players on its varsity roster. Kamehameha, which finished second in the league, had 109 players on its squad.

"I don't think it's going to result in lower scores," said Tony Ramos, principal of Kamehameha and president of the ILH. "To me it's about morale. We're a league and we need to take care of our smaller school brothers in this whole thing. They feel strongly that they're really outnumbered."

But coaches contend the rule stifles participation instead of encouraging students to take part in football.

"The number of kids we get to participate in extra-curricular activities is what you shoot for," Lee said. "That keeps more kids active and out of trouble. When we put a limit on it, that's not what we're here for."

The lack of a junior varsity program in the ILH for the last three years has exacerbated the inequity in roster sizes and created congestion on the intermediate level. Kamehameha fields two intermediate teams, and Punahou had more than 90 players on its roster last year. The level includes players in grades 7-9. Coaches fear the jump to varsity may discourage some from participating.

"A lot of them are not going to continue, because they feel they're not ready," Lee said.

Lee and Souza said they dread the prospect of deciding which players are allowed to suit up for games.

"Parents are very disappointed and rightfully so," Souza said. "It's affecting their children, and anytime you do that you'd better expect there's going to be a reaction."

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