UH-MC’s Maui Football Club taking shape

Coach: 35 players already signed up, more wanted; meeting set for Wednesday

Wallwork

WAILUKU — With an important meeting approaching in a week, the club football team for the University of Hawaii Maui College is coming into focus.

Maui Football Club head coach Aylett Wallwork says there are currently 35 players ready to compete for the team in the inaugural season of the Hawaii 8, a community college football program that has set its first season for spring 2020.

“We have about 35 that are ready to play, we want to get about 50,” Wallwork said outside of the Pacific Youth Sports and Fitness Expo at War Memorial Gym on Saturday. “We’re still working with the school to work out all the kinks as far as liability and that type of deal.”

A meeting has been set for Wednesday at 7 p.m. on the UH-MC campus, where more of the plan will be addressed.

Wallwork is steadfast that the first year of the program will be the hardest.

“This is the hurdle, the first year,” he said. “If we can get it off the ground, we can go after other kids who are not going to have to pay $15,000, $20,000 to play at a junior college (on the Mainland).”

One critical step that helped the MFC gain players was a change from requiring players to be fulltime students to now allowing them to be part-time students carrying at least six credit hours, or the equivalent of two classes.

“Because we started late, we’re letting them play as part-time students,” Wallwork said. “We’re just trying to get the program off the ground, so for the first two years of the program the students can be part-time and we will work our way to actually being fulltime status.”

Wallwork’s staff includes offensive coordinator Lance Da Silva, defensive coordinator Tony Corniel, as well as Joe Siofele, Nephi Laga, Dunn Llego, Mel Lum Ho, Tommy Tonu, Brian Harris and Keola Abreu. All are current or former Maui Interscholastic League coaches.

The announcement in March left the team in a lurch as far as trying to get seniors about to graduate into the program. Wallwork said the new process is much more workable.

“At that late point, the target was not the seniors coming out, but really the kid who never went anywhere,” Wallwork said. “And a lot of them are already working and for us to get them to be fulltime students is really unfair, the transition would be really hard.

“So, we’re looking at it where they can take two classes, be part-time, get back into school at part-time status and still be able to work and play.”

While the organizers of the statewide program are going to provide the equipment Wallwork said, he and his staff are working on locking down venues to use for practice and games. “The Pit” field at Keopuolani Park will tentatively be used for practice and War Memorial Stadium is tentatively set to be the home field for games, although the parking lot may be resurfaced during the spring, which would force an audible to the plan.

“We might have to go to one of the high schools for games,” Wallwork said. “Because we’re an outside group we still have to do the same paperwork as everybody else.”

The MFC will be a Registered Independent Student Organization through UH-MC.

“That’s how all the groups are starting off (in the state) and if we can make it successful then the school will take it over,” Wallwork said.

Wallwork has sent out information flyers to players already, but any coaches who have candidates for the team can help too.

“Whatever coaches can reach out to the kids that they know that want to play, but just don’t know how to get started because they’ve been out of school for one, two years, we’ll get to them,” Wallwork said.

Wallwork said he is much more confident in the possibility of success than he was at the first informational meeting in April.

“Excited and nervous all in the same bundle,” Wallwork said. “I need more offensive linemen. You can always find defensive players, but we need offensive linemen, we need some size.”

Offseason workouts are set to begin in late September or early October. The tentative schedule has Jan. 6 as the first day of practice and games will start Feb. 25.

Wallwork and his coaches are working to defray cost to the players of $1,200 to pay for travel for the eight-game season — four home and four away games. UH-MC chancellor Lui Hokoana mentioned the cost being $1,500 per player prior to the April meeting.

“We’re working on that,” Wallwork said. “That was initially to cover all the air fare and some of the fees that we’re going to have to come up with, but if you look at that fee, some people pay that just to go to a (football) camp.”

Attending junior college on the Mainland is rarely a free situation covered by scholarships.

“A lot of them they don’t realize when they go to a junior college those fees are actually worked into their tuition, but when you say it out loud, everybody says, ‘Whoa,’ “ Wallwork said of the fee.

The bottom line is the opportunity to play the game without the higher cost of doing so on the Mainland.

“This is just my opinion, but a lot of the kids who are going off to junior college for football, they are not really going for school, they are going to play,” Wallwork said. “They can play here. The reason I got involved is because I see so many kids who could have gone, but don’t have the financial part. So as far as the $1,200, that’s why we’re trying to bring that down.”

* Robert Collias is at rcollias@mauinews.com.