Star-Bulletin Sports

Wednesday, June 20, 2001


Damien parents
to discuss forfeits

A group plans to circulate a
petition to reinstate the games

By Jason Kaneshiro

Parents of Damien Memorial High School football players will meet this afternoon to circulate petitions to reinstate the Monarchs' games against St. Louis this season.

One parent said the group may also seek to have Br. Gregory O'Donnell removed as the school's president.

Lua Tuiasosopo, whose son is a junior on the football team, said O'Donnell and Damien athletic director Herb Lloyd have been invited to the meeting at the school's cafeteria that will include team coaches, players and their parents. She said the parents and players are upset at not being consulted about the forfeits and the administration's lack of support for the program.

"We were trying to find out where in the Catholic parochial schools we have to write to get him removed," Tuiasosopo said.

O'Donnell oversees the all-boys Catholic secondary school with an enrollment of approximately 400 students. He informed St. Louis president Fr. Allen DeLong of the forfeits in a letter sent last week, citing safety concerns for the Damien players. He stood by the decision in a meeting with a group of Interscholastic League of Honolulu athletic directors Monday.

"These are decisions that we've made in the best interests of the students and the program," O'Donnell said. "And sometimes you have to make hard decisions that somebody may not like.

"You can't run programs by taking a poll," he added. "That's not the way good schools do it."

Although the Monarchs have lost to St. Louis by an average margin of 64 points the last two seasons, Tuiasosopo said the Damien players look forward to playing the Crusaders.

"One hundred percent of the football players say that's what they live for, to play the best," Tuiasosopo said. "(The Crusaders) have a model program. ... My hats off to coach Cal Lee and what he's done with that program. And that's what we want to do, we want to build a program like St. Louis. But there's no support (from the administration)."

Lloyd admitted to being weary of the controversy, but said he's glad the situation has created dialog and highlighted the inequity in the league. He added that the situation could lead to classification for local high school football.

"People knew that was a problem and they've let it go," Lloyd said. "And because our president has decided to step up to the plate, now everybody has jumped on the bandwagon.

"We have a great league, we have great leadership. It's unfortunate it came to this and we just have to take it one step at a time.

"I had some people from the (Oahu Interscholastic Association) call me and tell me to hang in there," Lloyd said. "They just told me, 'Hang in there, I'm glad it's you and not us.' "

Some in the football community are looking at the Damien situation as reason to reexamine the current structure for high school football, with classification as a possible solution.

"Damien is a casualty in this right now and they're not going to be the only ones," said Punahou head coach Kale Ane. "You would hope we would be proactive and do what's best for the sport and what's best for the kids. Maybe we're wrong, but we won't know until we try it."

The matter of the forfeits was to be on the agenda of the ILH principals meeting this morning. While the forfeits would directly impact Damien and St. Louis, the outcome of today's meeting could reverberate throughout the ILH.

The ILH scheduling format used since 1978 has the league's six teams playing each other twice a season. Under that format, St. Louis and Damien would play eight games during the regular season while the other teams would play 10 this fall because of the forfeits.

"Anything that has a relationship to the development of a schedule, we all discuss it," said ILH executive secretary Clay Benham. "This is why it's a league concern, it's not just a two-school concern. It makes a difference in the schedule and it could be a significant factor in the format as far as win-and-loss situations for the other teams.

"St. Louis would get two free wins, and that's not fair to Kamehameha, to Punahou, to Iolani, to (Pac-Five)."

Benham said there is nothing in the ILH by-laws regarding a team asking to forfeit a contest. Alternatives presented to the principals today may include a two-tiered league format or excluding Damien from the league schedule this season.

"We've had forfeits before, but they were based on objective criteria like disciplinary action and ineligibility situations," he said. "We've never had a team purposely before the season starts say we're going to forfeit two games.

"It is an unprecedented request and there's nothing in our by-laws that allows it or disallows it, so we have to discuss it."

Kamehameha head coach Kanani Souza declined to comment on the issue, but said it's unfortunate the student-athletes are caught in the middle of the controversy.

"I feel for the kids at Damien, I feel for the parents," Souza said. "And I'm sure the people at Damien are looking at it from the standpoint of responsibility. I feel really bad something like this is happening."

Star-Bulletin staffer Ben Henry contributed to this report.

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