ADs vote for three six-team football playoffs

Executive board approval expected today; MIL would not be in Open Division

The three tiers of state high school football tournaments are one step away from returning in the fall, with six teams in the Open Division for the second straight year, and six each in the Division I and Division II events as well.

The Maui Interscholastic League’s lone proposal — to host the Division II state soccer tournaments once every three years — did not get out of committee proceedings Wednesday at the 57th annual Hawaii Interscholastic Athletic Directors Association conference on the Big Island.

MIL Executive Director Joe Balangitao said he was pleased to see the return of the Open Division state football tournament, which is expected to get final approval today from the Hawaii High School Athletic Association executive board.

The executive board, made up of one principal from each of the state’s five leagues, can amend, reject or pass any of the proposals passed along from Thursday. Baldwin’s Catherine Kilborn is the MIL member of the executive board.

The MIL, which is set to finalize its schedules Tuesday, will continue not to play in the Open Division, which will include two teams from the Interscholastic League of Honolulu and four from the Oahu Interscholastic Association.

“We keep that open, there’s always that possibility, but right now, to me in my estimation, we have nobody to play in the Open Division to face a Kahuku or a Punahou or a Saint Louis — they are in a league of their own,” Balangitao said.

Balangitao and other officials expect the three-tier football tournament to pass after being amended multiple times. The proposal, one of 30 sent by the leagues and HHSAA to the executive board, originally had six teams in the Open Division, and eight each in the other two. Last year, only D-I had eight teams, while the other two each had six.

“Our take last year, we kind of pushed for Division I and Division II to have eight teams (each),” Balangitao said. “Because it mostly affected our league, so we compromised and we got Division I with eight teams as a trial for the year.”

Balangitao said the eight-team D-I state tournament last year was too costly.

“Looking at the numbers after the tournament and all that, it wasn’t feasible to continue,” he said. “So at our board meeting, it just made sense and we said, ‘Yeah, we’ll go back to the six, six and six format.’ Me, as a former coach, I don’t particularly like two teams sitting out (with byes the first week).”

Balangitao said the loss of Hawaiian Airlines as a sponsor for the state football tournaments was a major factor in the revenue issues.

“In the future, if we ever get it back, I’m going to push for it again,” Balangitao said of the eight-team format. “That’s where that kind of lies. At least we tried and it’s something we may address later on.”

The final football proposal sent to the executive board Thursday was amended to include a requirement that each league declare its teams’ levels by Sept. 1 — that was also made as a stand-alone proposal, which was defeated in committee.

Last year, the the top four finishers in the OIA D-I tournament went to the Open Division state event, while the quarterfinal losers played in the D-I state tournament.

“As long as everybody is consistent in declaring their teams the right way, it works out for everybody,” Balangitao said.

Balangitao stressed that one of stipulations for his league to lend support to the two-league Open Division was that all 46 schools in the state competing in 11-player football receive an even portion of the revenues from all three state tournaments.

“We made sure of that — we stressed it’s a state tournament,” he said. “And each and every football team should get an equal share. It’s not a two-league tournament where the Open Division would get more money. The discussion was brought up the Neighbor Islands were highly against that.”

Lahainaluna won the D-II state football title last year, becoming the second Neighbor Island team to win a state championship in the spot — King Kekaulike took the D-II crown in 2006.

Saint Louis won the inaugural Open Division title last year, and Mililani was the D-I champion.

One of the other bigger proposals to be passed along to the executive board was to continue having league runners-up host first-round state tournament games in volleyball, basketball, soccer and water polo.

* Robert Collias is at rcollias@mauinews.com

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