Keith Amemiya


Sports director gives
small high schools
a chance for a title

Fourth of ten parts

Creating quality competition is what Keith Amemiya is all about, and the fruits of his labor were obvious to high school sports observers in 2003.

As executive director of the Hawaii High School Athletic Association, Amemiya championed the creation of a new football division to give smaller schools a chance to do something they never had a realistic shot at before: win a state title.

Ten who made a difference
Some fought controversial battles. Others made headlines or worked quietly behind the scenes. But all made an impact on Hawaii in 2003 and are thus recognized as the Star-Bulletin's 10 who made a difference.

A plan to create another division failed in past years, but Amemiya did not let his inspiration die. In the spring, he visited representatives of all five Hawaii high school leagues trying to gain support.

And when it was almost crunch time -- voting on the measure by the state's athletic directors in June -- he put his own money on the line to ensure that a new division would at least break even.

When the vote came, despite nervous pacing for two straight days at the athletic directors convention on Maui, Amemiya got what he worked so hard for. The directors approved the plan.

Getting the plan passed was one thing, but putting together successful football tournaments in Division I and Division II for the first time was another.

The final financial numbers are not in yet, but from a spectator's viewpoint, the two tiers were overwhelmingly a success this fall.

The two state final games were decided by a total of three points, and people are still buzzing about the drama created by the four teams: Kahuku's last-second 27-26 comeback win over Saint Louis in Division I and Aiea's fourth-quarter rally to beat Damien 9-7 in Division II.

"Keith took a chance on something that a lot of people thought wouldn't work," Aiea coach Wendell Say said. "Winning a state title has done a lot for our school -- the pride of the students, community support and the alumni who are so happy about our accomplishment. And none of this would have happened without Division II."

Say was on the fence about creating a new division, but he is a believer now.

Amemiya's fight is not completely over. The Division II tournament was a one-year experiment that needs to be approved by athletic directors again in June to continue.

"But I don't think it will be a tough sell this time," Say said.

Amemiya's efforts for football have a side highlight as well. The directors also voted to hold Division I and Division II tournaments in softball and girls basketball in 2004.


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