Division I tournament
fields shrink by 4

The HHSAA passes a proposal
that could decrease the number
of entries from 12 to eight

Runner-up teams in most of the state's leagues will face a far more daunting challenge in the coming year.

The Hawaii High School Athletic Association executive board passed a proposal that could reduce the number of entries in Division I state tournaments from 12 to eight. It also means that next year's Division II state tournaments could increase from four teams to eight. The proposal could have an immediate impact on softball and girls basketball.

The classification proposal was one of 19 that passed yesterday at the Oahu Interscholastic Association office at Radford High School. Adjusting the number of entries into the state tournaments could give the OIA, the state's largest league, a competitive advantage. However, the league says it simply wanted fairness in numbers.

"I'm pleased with the outcome. It's about equity," OIA executive director Dwight Toyama said. "What's good for Division I should adhere to Division II. They should have the same requirements."

The proposal advanced to the HHSAA after being passed by administrators at last week's Hawaii Interscholastic Athletic Directors Association conference in Lihue. By far, it was the hot topic yesterday. Not including a lunch break, the proposal took 2 hours to discuss by executive directors and principals representing each of the state's five leagues.

The numbers behind the proposal will determine the number of state berths for each league by a balanced numerical formula -- just as it is now. However, with the advancement of Division II state tournaments for football, softball and girls basketball, more programs are moving down to D-II.

That's why Toyama was a strong proponent of balancing the D-I and D-II state tournament formats to reflect the numbers. Last season, there were 33 teams statewide in D-I girls basketball, with 31 in D-II.

The proposal means that most, if not all five leagues will lose berths in the D-I tournament. The Interscholastic League of Honolulu, for example, could have just one D-I entry next season in girls basketball. That means another strong second-place team, such as Iolani this year, would not enter the state tourney.

For most of the season, the ILH had three of the top five-ranked teams in the Star-Bulletin Girls Basketball Top 10 this year.

Also, the Maui Interscholastic League and Big Island Interscholastic Federation could lose one berth each.

If the BIIF loses a state berth, its runner-up will not be in the state tourney. The BIIF's second-place girls basketball team, Honokaa, reached this season's semifinal round and finished third after a win over OIA champ Kahuku.

Before the final vote, Waiakea principal Patricia Nekoba, on behalf of the BIIF, motioned for an amendment that would limit the classification proposal's language only to the Division II state format. HHSAA executive director Keith Amemiya argued for the amendment, citing potentially serious problems.

"Reducing to eight teams in Division I could do serious financial damage. When D-II was created, it was as a supplement to D-I, not to reduce it," Amemiya said. "I haven't heard from one person a single legitimate reason why Division I should go below 12 teams."

That motion was narrowly defeated after a long debate. With one vote counted for each school, the ILH and OIA had the largest blocks.

The BIIF (17 votes) and MIL (13) voted for the amendment, while the ILH (24), KIF (5) and OIA (28) voted against it. The ILH stood to lose as much as anyone, voting for a measure that will surely hurt its own teams in girls basketball and softball.

Once that was done, all leagues except the BIIF voted against the proposal.

"It's going to be devastating," Amemiya predicted. His points regarding the proposal included a potential loss of more than $23,000 if the Division I state tournament shrinks to eight entries.

Toyama noted that the savings on transportation costs are key.

"With eight (in D-I) and eight (in D-II), it cuts the tournaments back one day. If we go to school sites the first two days, we save big costs on rental (of Stan Sheriff Center)," he said.

Amemiya said he prefers to see the top high school teams play in the best facility as much as possible.

Incidentally, the OIA could lose a state berth due to the proposal and existing formula. If the reduction had occurred this spring, two OIA powerhouses could have been left out of the state tourney. Mililani was the leader in OIA West baseball, but lost in the opening round of playoffs. The Trojans finished fifth to qualify for states.

The same was true for OIA girls basketball power Kalaheo, which also finished fifth and qualified for the state tourney.

The definition of a Division I or II team, by virtue of the classification proposal, will be determined by individual leagues. Amemiya expressed concern that individual schools may be pressured to enter Division I competition merely to give their leagues bigger numbers and more state berths.

In girls basketball, the numbers are very close.

The BIIF had six teams in Division I and six more in Division II this season. The ILH had six in D-I, but Maryknoll has already indicated that it will drop down to D-II next year. The ILH also has 11 D-II teams, but only eight are state-tournament eligible.

The MIL had five entries in D-I. The league had six teams in D-II, though Hana and Lanai both forfeited games at one point.

The OIA, one of the largest leagues in the nation, had 14 D-I teams and nine in D-II.

Based on these numbers -- 29 Division I teams statewide expected next season -- an eight-team D-I state tournament would be comprised of: four from the OIA, two from the BIIF and one each from the ILH and MIL.

The Kauai Interscholastic Federation will play strictly in Division II next school year.

Originally, at the HIADA conference, Amemiya submitted a proposal to retain a 12-team Division I format and expand the D-II format to six. That measure did not get out of committee.

Amemiya also submitted a proposal to adjust the 12-team format by giving two automatic berths to each league. The four remaining at-large berths would have been determined by the current formula.

The other 18 proposals all passed without debate.

» Addition of the libero position for boys and girls volleyball.

» Include the BIIF into the state tournament host rotation for water polo, track and field, and paddling.

» Adjusted Oahu to the normal hosting rotation for tennis (four sites statewide) rather than in alternating years.

» Moved the softball tournaments a week earlier to February 1-4.

» Moved the girls volleyball tournament a week earlier to coincide with the boys tourney. Early round matches will likely be played at school sites, with the remainder of the tourney at the Sheriff Center.

» Allow an open slot at the wrestling tourney to be filled by another wrestler from the same league.

» Added a back-up scoring and timing system to the cross country meet.

» Changed girls judo weight classes to: 98, 103, 109, 115, 122, 129, 139, 154, 172 and 220 pounds.

» Compensates trainers $100 per day for work at the state tourneys.

Five proposals directly affect track and field:

» All discus and shot put throws will be marked without a mark line.

» Visual markers in all field events added to aid coaches and spectators.

» Use of whistle commands for the start of running events.

» Allows the use of certified implements for throwing events. Certification will be available until 1 hour prior to the event.

» Changes the dates of the track and field from Thursday and Saturday to Friday and Saturday.

The latter proposal will likely have its greatest impact on long-distance runners. Athletic directors cited transportation and hotel costs for the change.

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