More readers weigh in on balance in prep football

October 18th, 2013
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The following is from reader Ron Tang:

Hooray for both of your articles on consolidating our high school football teams.  I have been a strong advocate of having one league "High School Prep Football" where essentially there are only two major divisions:  Red and White (your suggestion for 3 divisions is also viable).   The huge disparity that exists today in both leagues manifests itself in the significant number of injuries I have witnessed this season.

Our grandson plays for Pac-5 who just played Punahou.  Obviously they were clearly outranked.  To say that they were struggling and tired would be an understatement and yet they continued to give their best.   I empathize with the players who try so hard to make a difference and are unable to do so because the big guys they are playing against are truly BIG guys!  St. Francis forfeited their game against St. Louis but if you read their tweets on Facebook, they were begging to play.  After all, that is what they have been practicing for  all season…a chance to play.

Wth only two or three divisions in one league, all of our boys will have a chance to play among their peers and there will be no embarrassment of a forfeit or being "crushed" by such ridiculous scores as 65-0 or 59-7.  Our boys can hold their heads up instead of down and be proud of what they accomplished on the field.

Parents of msimatched schools should ban together and demand the HHSA do something to change or improve the competitive balance in high school football.  Ten years is a bit too long to sit and do nothing.

Let's play fair.

The following is from a reader who prefers to remain anonymous:

Mr. Reardon,

I just finished your article in the Sunday Star Advertiser and was wondering if you know how Kaiser got “back” from the Red Division into the White Division. Was it because of their poor showing in the 2011 season? If so, too bad!

Coach Miano seems to be running up the scores, keeping his first string players in the game, even after being up by 35 points and likes to humiliate the other White Division teams by beating them into the ground. I would like to see Kaiser go up against Kahuku and get their (butt) handed to them like they do to their White Division opponents. Then Coach Miano will know what humility is all about! I think that the other White Division coaches have more class, as they are not trying to make their resumes look “good” for moving on to college football.

If changes need to be taken and it will take 10 years to do it, then make it a rule next season that ANY team that averages more than 35 points over it’s division opponents automatically moves to the higher division for three (3) seasons. I think that will produce less blowouts, less forfeits and hopefully less injuries. Do you think that such a simple change could take 10 years to implement?

I like to see the smaller White Division schools be able to compete with one another with a better than average chance of winning the game, rather than thinking about how much they will lose by to Kaiser.

I don’t expect a reply, but please continue pursuing this inequity issue in your column. Could you poll the coaches and athletic heads in all leagues and publish this poll? I know that this poll won’t change the minds of the HHSAA, but it will give them something to think about. Maybe then will the HHSAA committee make necessary changes.

8 Responses to “More readers weigh in on balance in prep football”

  1. Aaron:

    I think a 3-division format is necessary. the problem with having just two divisions is that a traditionally-elite team can drop too low after a lean season and a overachieving small team can rise too high after a short period of success. There needs to be a middle division for teams that have the occasional poor or exceptional season. We saw this back when the OIA had three divisions and Kahuku had dropped down to the middle division during a brief period where they struggled a bit and they moved down from the Red to the White. Just as everyone figured, they were back to their elite ways in no time and moved back up to the Red in no time. their time in the White was not that bad, as there were decent teams with good enough turnout to make the games against Kahuku competitive. If they had a two-division format back then, the smaller teams would have been routinely blown out by Kahuku - the situation the multi-division format was created to avoid. The biggest problem with the 3-division format was that the divisions were too small - there were only 7 teams per division (Kapolei High was not yet open).

    If the OIA and ILH were to merge, there would be enough teams to stock three full divisions. The problem would be that the 3-divsion format would not match the rest of the state, which follows a Div.1/Div.2 model. Perhaps this could be solved by having the 3rd division be a permanent member of the Div.2 classification for state tournament purposes and the top teams in the 2nd division participating in the same playoff as the top division teams in the merged Oahu football league. I'm sure there's a fair way to do it, somehow, if everyone wanted to make it happen.


  2. innocent observer:

    agree with all those who want to have a 3rd division in prep football on Oahu. the disparity between schools in terms of number of players and size of players should be a factor in the division's makeup. further, safety of the students should be a factor, the smaller schools have fewer and smaller players - obviously the cannot compete physically with the large schools. teams within a division should be competitive and shame on miano for running up the scores on the lesser teams. what point were you trying to prove?


  3. turfwar:

    Kaiser is good but not blessed with overwhelming talent compared with other OIA white schools. But they are well trained and well coached. I'm not a Kaiser guy in fact Kaiser and Miano got quite a few of our players to transfer. But it would insult me even more if the Kaiser players and coaches would let up. I've seen a game and the non-starters did in fact get in pretty early in the second half. Every team they play has the same opportunity to train and prepare during the off-season. Find out how many players on your team came out for the off season workouts. My guess is about 50-60% on a good day which is average. They smoked us during the pass league and we play in the red division. It wasn't embarrassing because they had it going on with a great turnout of enthusiastic kids. Teams that work hard deserve to win and win big. It's up to the rest of the league's coaches to inspire and train. Not ask for pity or to expect them to take it easy us. Stop crying and get to work. It's not like a Punahou vs St.Francis matchup. Now that is simply not not safe. People can get seriously hurt. If you feel like your team was taken advantage of then they simply need to get better and train harder. If Kaiser makes teams play up then better for everyone else.


  4. CriticalReader:

    Regarding both communications to Dave, particularly Mr. Tang's:

    I think everyone understands and sympathizes with the frustration of sitting there watching a kid you're rooting for lose. It's frustrating as heck. We invest a lot into out kids and grandkids, and it is our way to only want the best of success for them.

    But, in my view, what I read in Dave's posts were adult concerns and adult issues.

    What was telling to me was the report that the St. Francis kids were "begging" to play during their forfeit week. That makes sense to me. I remember playing on one awful high school team in particular (0 'fer - or 1 'fer - I can't even remember for certain the final record, ALL I remember is that we were pretty bad.).

    But, I was never embarrassed about either the results or in any way being on that team. That was the team the created bonds that last to this day, and taught lessons that were really valuable (one of the biggest ones was what to look for and value in coaches for my kids).

    The teams we played in that 0 'fer (or 1 'fer) year had some real animals on them. Looking back, we actually had no hope of winning. But I have no recollection of ever thinking that. I don't recall ever feeling scared to play. And, it NEVER crossed my mind that perhaps we shouldn't play the next game. I've seen people quit. The guys on that team didn't. Never crossed anyone's mind.

    I think we believed we could win going in, and were in every game being played (but, trust me, we weren't). And, nothing, not the score, not the behemoth nature of some of the opposition, and not the physics that said at given points we could not win stopped us from giving those animals and the game itself the best we had.

    Actually, the only true discomfort occurred after our games, experiencing the wrath of coaches who weren't happy with the results, and being present when overzealous parents crossed boundaries to show their "adult" displeasures.

    My point is, like the St. Francis players, we just wanted to play. And pretty much at all times, rightly or wrongly, the attitude was, "bring it on, we can handle".

    If your grandson's team did feel "embarrassed" at any time this season, Mr. Tang, then I think you need to talk to their coaches.

    Mr. Tang, you wrote something very important to Dave. You wrote, Mr. Tang: "Our boys can hold their heads up instead of down and be proud of what they accomplished on the field."

    I hope that is true, Sir.

    It is my considered belief that while 13 wins would be great, and only 1 win far less than great, no single win, many wins, or even football season is worth ANYTHING unless a kid can walk away holding his head up, and being proud of what has been accomplished on the field. In my view, with that, a win or a championship is nothing more than a side extra gravy. Without it, another win or championship is no better than a lettuce salad without dressing.

    To me, the things I mentioned above are the things that are important about high school football. Assuming it, as a very dangerous sport by its nature (as opposed to its divisional organizations) continues to be played, to me those are the virtues that need to be emphasized (or emphasized anew). In my mind, we as adults are empowered and responsible for setting that tone and creating that perspective and outcome - especially for the children that high school football players really are (it's actually, our last chance to do so with them).

    I'm not sure those things are promoted in any way by further division of Oahu's teams, into levels of perceived excellence, by a bunch of adults before the season, and before the kids even get a chance to prove themselves.

    In fact, I think this concept of further dividing teams up promotes three concepts that seem unfortunately to have become the focus of high school football now days:

    1. Winning is what is important and would become even more important. Right now, it's win the division and then win to advance in States. Under this super division idea, winning will become uber important to stay in the super division. That's a heck of a lot of pressure on coaches and kids.

    Think the hitting is going to any less vicious that it now? Or worse? Worried about injuries to little guys? What about little guys on the superconference teams? They're going to have to play in hard hitting money games every week just the same as AND AGAINST the "truly BIG guys". One thing about this whole discussion of superconference to avoid injuries is the assumption that superconference type teams are all stacked with 22 monsters. That's just not true. There are plenty of little guys on these teams. So, I wonder whether or not they're just being forgotten in the "avoid injuries" analysis, or whether or not there's some sense out there that "little guys" on powerful teams somehow deserve this "asserted" greater risk of injury;

    2. If you're not in the super division, you're not super. People think it's "unfair" for teams like Kaiser and Iolani to be in DII now? Just wait until Moanaluas, McKinleys, Kaisers and Iolanis of this year WANT to be in the super league but can't because of a pre-season vote. Boy, that's going to be a great lesson in life's unfairness for the kids on those teams. The discussion won't be about the occasional good team sandbagging to go down to DII. It will be marked by outright fury emanating from a handful of teams (SEVERAL. Not just one or two) feeling they were wrongfully relegated to DII.

    3. A premium will be placed not on wins and losses, but on score differential. To Dave's anonymous correspondent's point. Assuming what is accused regarding Kaiser is or did actually go on, does anyone believe a new super division is going to alleviate that sort of behavior? IF it is happening at Kaiser, it's probably because Kaiser wanted to be in DI this year, and wants to create justification for its program to "ascend" to DI next year (a completely understandable instinct created by a differentiation in class and status of programs). In my view, creating a super division will make it worse, especially by those teams every year on the bubble in Division II, coveting a spot in the super division.

    And, IF the new divisional organization proposed by Dave occurred next year, I THINK Kaiser would be in DII again. Yes?

    IF this new superdivision/DII/DIII configuration were implemented next year, even just along the lines so many have delighted in configuring (like fantasy football), think a DII Kaiser, or any number of teams like it, is/are going to be happy? What is the likely response? How would RUTS be prevented? (you would have to give EVERY team the chance and opportunity to prove its worth and eligibility as a super division team, wouldn't you?) Or, is some neutral person from the league going to go down in the middle of a game and start deciding who plays and who doesn't to keep the score close? Is there going to be a rule giving the other team in a blowout an automatic touchdown every time the stronger team scores?

    Once again, I think I totally get how frustrating it can be to sit in the stands and watch your kid lose. I just don't see a new divisional organization of the OIA and ILH as solving any of those frustrations well, and that it creates a whole new brand of frustrations and complications.


  5. CriticalReader:

    Read my post over and realized I didn't include one important point: Depth chart players on super conference teams. Second, third and fourth stringers. Or, the really little guys. When do they play in a super conference configuration? Considering the stakes for EVERY game in a superconference focused arrangement, I agree that each and every game both in super conference and in the top half of DII will be a WAR. Not only will each game matter tremendously (with less margins for error), but each game will impact the next season's placement.

    How often will a Coach in superconference have occasion to "risk" playing the second team, much less the third.

    2, 3, 4 losses in super conference? No chance at States? Still not time, unfortunately for player development or pay off to hard working second and third stringers to get into games.

    Why?

    Because the next loss might risk demotion to DII. Heck, the next WIN might risk demotion to DII if it's not "big" enough.

    What's the line from "Rudy"? "We're playing for the championship every week."

    Is that what it's all about? Is our desire to see "excellence", or "best of the best", or whatever so insatiable and intense that we'd risk that?

    There's a time and place for that. High School isn't the time and place.


  6. CriticalReader:

    Also, for anonymous in Dave's article, I feel this point needs to be highlighted a little more brightly: Kaiser's results are in great part a result of "excellence" or "power" divisions.

    DI and DII designation have already created haves and have nots. And, to me, it is a completely natural aspiration to want to be a have, or DI. It is a completely natural instinct to for players to want to be on a have team rather than a have not team, and for their families to want and accommodate the same.

    How does this manifest itself? WITHOUT super conference, we see "recruiting" even in the public school system, we see players abandoning their neighborhood for "greener" pastures, one clearly emerging dynamic is that "greener" pastures mean OC16 appearances.

    Is that going to change with super conference? I don't think so. I think that will just make the choices for which school a player and their family should seek a GE to more refined.

    And, here's what's on the horizon. The other day, I heard Rich Miano interviewed on the radio. He juxtaposed the obvious excellent performance of his program with his view that Kaiser deserves a "field turf" field. Can anyone say, "facilities"? But, hey, maybe that's the right direction to go toward. After all, Kaiser's sports program is the "front porch" of the school. It will increase applications. It will enhance its academic standing in the community.


  7. chris:

    If there are 3 divisions in ILH Pac5 and St. Francis should be DIII, Iolani and Damien DII, and Kam, Puns and St. Louis DI.


  8. Manoa Mist:

    Think you are absolutely right on this one Dave. Classification is all backwards in Hawaii. It's like fluoride, Hawaii is the only state that doesn't put it in our drinking water, and so we have the worst dental health in the nation. We always backwards hicks.
    Oh, and Dave-O, I have to admit once again you may be right about Mariota. I read that he is considered a better pro prospect than Johnny Football. Who knew?
    This is why you are a sports writer, and I am finishing up my time in Halawa prison Mr. Reardon.


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