Merger of OIA,
ILH could improve
Oahu football

The Oahu Interscholastic Association is dead set against it.

The Interscholastic League of Honolulu has more of a wait-and-see stance.

And Keith Amemiya, the head of the Hawaii High School Athletic Association, has no comment.

But many followers of high school football on Oahu would like to see the top schools competing against each other during the regular season.

"Why not put the best teams against the best teams and make the games count in the standings?" said one fan from the Windward side.

The two leagues raised a few eyebrows when they announced a two-year agreement for their teams to play against each other in early-season interleague games that don't count toward league won-lost records. These non-league schedules for 2004 and '05 are likely to contain some blockbuster matchups as well as lots of other intriguing games.

Some observers thought the agreement was a preliminary move toward a football merger, but representatives of both leagues have flatly stated that such is not their intention.

Still, it's hard to deny that a merger would make for better matchups each week, bigger gates and an improvement in the overall quality of football being played.

Of course, the reasons for not merging are compelling as well. OIA representatives such as executive secretary Dwight Toyama, football coordinator Richard Townsend and Castle athletic director Richard Haru say a combined league would be too big and unmanageable.

There are other reasons a merger might not work: the difficulty and possible illegality of the combined funding and revenue for public and private schools; added travel costs due to non-regional conferences; and the differing philosophies and rules that each league brings to the table.

Naturally, there are other fears. Maybe the private schools, which have won 21.5 of the last 30 state or Prep Bowl championships, would be too dominant in a new league.

Or maybe a new alignment would water down the value of the state tournament, which has proven to be highly successful in its five-year history. For example, if the Oahu teams are beating each other up in the regular season, it might make the state tournament moot.

Furthermore, if Oahu's best teams constantly improve because of their tougher schedules, they may eventually become too strong in comparison to the neighbor island teams, which are already struggling to keep pace.

Georges Gilbert, an assistant to ILH executive director Don Botelho, has said the league isn't pursuing a merger, but he didn't go so far as to say the league was completely against it.

One head coach, Pearl City's Onosai Tanuvasa, would heartily welcome a uniting of the ILH and OIA. He played for Farrington in the late 1960s and early 1970s, around the time when the Govs and four other public schools left the 10-team ILH to join the Rural Oahu Interscholastic Association.

"This is what Hawaii football needs," he said. "The only way teams get better is by playing the best there is to offer. It's in the best interests of the kids to give them the best competition available."

Tanuvasa said he knows many other coaches who feel the same way he does.

Part of the reason for that split 33 years ago was because of the public schools' objections to the private schools' ability to get players with no geographical boundaries.

That perceived unfairness is still an issue, but it hasn't prevented the public schools from playing against the private schools in state tournaments, Prep Bowls and various non-league encounters.

And now, the leagues have taken a step closer with their two-year, early-season interleague agreement.

Why not go all the way a few years down the road by setting up an executive board of representatives from both leagues to oversee a merger and run the ensuing show?

One mock proposal accompanies this story. The top five teams from each conference could qualify for a three-tiered state tournament. Maui, Kauai and the Big Island could send one representative in each division.


Mock Oahu football alignment

(2003 records in parentheses)

Diamond Conference (Division I)

Team 2003 standing 2003 record
Kahuku Red Raiders OIA Red champion, state final four 12-0-0 (1.000)
Saint Louis Crusaders ILH Division I champion, state final four 8-1-0 (.889)
Kapolei Hurricanes OIA White runner-up, state qualifier 9-2-0 (.818)
Aiea Na Alii OIA White champion, state final four 8-2-0 (.800)
Kamehameha Warriors ILH Division I runner-up 7-2-0 (.778)
Mililani Trojans OIA Red fourth place, state qualifier 9-3-0 (.750)
Kailua Surfriders OIA Red runner-up, state qualifier 9-3-1 (.731)
Pearl City Chargers OIA Red West second place 6-3-0 (.667)
Farrington Governors OIA Red third place, state final four 7-4-1 (.625)
Punahou Buffanblu ILH Division I third place 6-4-0 (.600)

Gold Conference (Division II)

Team 2003 standing 2003 record
Nanakuli Golden Hawks OIA Red West third place 5-4-0 (.556)
McKinley Tigers OIA Red East fourth place 5-4-0 (.556)
Radford Rams OIA White third place 5-4-0 (.556)
Castle Knights OIA Red East fifth place 4-4-0 (.500)
Damien Monarchs ILH Division II champion, state final four 4-5-0 (.444)
Kalaheo Mustangs OIA White fourth place 4-5-0 (.444)
Iolani Raiders ILH Division II runner-up 4-6-1 (.409)
Leilehua Mules OIA Red West fifth place 3-5-0 (.375)
Kaiser Cougars OIA White fifth place 3-5-0 (.375)
Waianae Seariders OIA Red West fourth place 3-6-0 (.333)

Silver Conference (Division III)

Team 2003 standing 2003 record
Pac-Five Wolfpack ILH Division II third place 2-6-1 (.278)
Roosevelt Rough Riders OIA Red East sixth place 2-6-0 (.250)
Campbell Sabers OIA Red West sixth place 2-6-0 (.250)
Moanalua Menehunes OIA White sixth place 2-6-0 (.250)
Waipahu Marauders OIA Red West seventh place 1-7-0 (.125)
Waialua Bulldogs OIA White seventh place 1-7-0 (.125)
Kalani Falcons OIA White eighth place 0-7-0 (.000)
Kaimuki Bulldogs OIA Red East seventh place 0-8-0 (.000)


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