Kalani Simpson Sidelines

Kalani Simpson

Iolani is among
the elite,
not Division II



No. No. No. No. No. No. No.

This is not what classification should be about.

Iolani is money, facilities, history. Iolani is Seabiscuit, and Thanksgiving games, and old ILH glory, and Father Bray. And in case we've forgotten, it was right on the front page of the paper, Wednesday. Iolani has THE MAGIC HORSESHOE.

(You can't lose if you have the magic horseshoe.)

But now classification has finally come to fruition in Hawaii high school football, and there's Iolani sitting in Division II.


This wasn't created for a "have" like this.

(Or was it? Those details weren't quite worked out until the various godfathers got together in the back room.)

Now, it takes compromise -- a miracle, really -- to pull together something like this, and you can't make everyone happy unless no one is.

And Iolani's true size might surprise you. It has a smaller enrollment than you might think.

And, as Hawaii High School Athletic Association honcho Keith Amemiya (the guy who somehow made this dream come true) said, the best part about classification is that it is fluid.

"You can rectify an unlevel playing field by readjusting the alignment," he said. Give it a year and see what happens.


But Iolani?

With the small schools?

We live in an age of Michael Jordanization, in which everyone convinces himself that the world is against him and nobody gives him any respect.

Here's some respect. Iolani is nobody's underdog.

If you are an elite, prestigious private school, you are not an underdog. If you are getting some of the state's best students, skimming the cream of the crop, these are not underdogs. If it costs $10,900 a year to go there, don't cry for me, Argentina.

Iolani shouldn't sell itself short. Not to us. Not to itself. Not now.

What would Father Bray do?

OK. Sorry. I'll stop picking on the Raiders. They were merely the biggest eyebrow-raiser in the classification plan unveiled Wednesday.

There's Konawaena. Yes, the Wildcats have a great argument for going Division II, by the numbers. The new Kealakehe district took a large chunk of Kona's area and enrollment. Still, Konawaena is a football power until proven otherwise. (And Keaau, a new school with big numbers but in its infancy as a football program, goes Division I in Kona's place?)

And the Kauai schools. Perennial champ Waimea drops down with a bye week (and a home game) in the DII tournament. The kicker is that this classification plan couldn't have gone through unless Kapaa and Kauai High -- neither of which has won a league football title in recent memory -- was allowed into Division I. I admire their fighting spirit, but ...

Well, it's a trip to Oahu, I guess.

Then, Lahainaluna. A borderline Division II pick (and I'll give them the benefit of the doubt because I'm an alum), the Lunas insisted on getting called up to Division I if they happen to win the Maui league. It's inconsistent. It's unfair. I like it.

And of course, the densely populated, big-school Oahu Interscholastic Association has too many teams in Division II and too many berths (two) in its state tournament.

Oh, to have been a fly on the wall when all this went down.

Yes, big picture, it's good this thing happened at all. All first steps are progress. It's easy to be reminded of that by the man who is happiest of all with this. The one who really got this ball rolling with his stand two summers ago.

Damien president Brother Gregory O'Donnell even likes Iolani right where it is.

"I think it's good for classification to have some strong programs included in the lower tier," he said. "That will mitigate against comments like 'the battle of the beatens' to describe the Division II playoffs."

And why is that?

"No one in his or her right mind could describe Iolani as second-rate," he said.

I couldn't have put it any better myself.

"That," O'Donnell said, "will give the Division II group some sort of status."

And Amemiya, the man who is putting his wallet on the line with this, as well as his name (by personally guaranteeing to cover the financial losses of a second state football playoff), pleads patience.

"Let's just try it," he said. "After this first year let's see who wins and who doesn't."

Well, we certainly know who should.

See the Columnists section for some past articles.

Kalani Simpson can be reached at


E-mail to Sports Editor


Text Site Directory:
[News] [Business] [Features] [Sports] [Editorial] [Do It Electric!]
[Classified Ads] [Search] [Subscribe] [Info] [Letter to Editor]
© 2003 Honolulu Star-Bulletin --