Low Numbers Force Kohala to Bow Out of Football Season
by Josh Pacheco
Citing a lack of numbers, Kohala High School has withdrawn from competing in the 2013 Big Island Interscholastic Federation football season.
Monday was the official start date for schools to begin organized conditioning workouts. Kohala Athletic Director Laurie Koustik told her peers several months ago that she would not “drag her feet” on making a decision, noting the impact it has on the other schools. She told her fellow athletic directors that she would observe the first three days of conditioning before announcing her school’s intentions.
Koustik said it was a difficult decision that she had to make on her own. Her school’s principal, Janette Snelling, is currently on vacation.
“Am I happy about dropping football? Absolutely not,” said Koustik in a phone interview. “It’s one of the last things you want to do as an athletic director to take away any opportunity from any of the student-athletes. But, in our case, I feel like that’s what we had to do.”
Kohala, along with Ka`u High School, has monitored turnout closely. Last year, Koustik and Ka`u Athletic Director Kalei Namohala both announced similar expectations for fielding a team. They said that because of injury concerns and other circumstances, their schools would field a team if they could attract 30 students to go out to practices.
Koustik said that 25 players showed up for conditioning on Wednesday, an increase of two from Monday’s start date. However, only 16 of those players had physicals, much less than what was required when students and administrators met in May to set the guidelines for the 2013 season.
“We had 41 kids at the meeting and it was stated that they all needed to come in with physicals,” Koustik explained.
Koustik said that her athletic trainer worked out a deal with a local health center to set aside two days for sports physicals for the student-athletes. Other options were being worked out, but the number of students that were able to complete a physical were still well below the amount required.
Namohala told Big Island Now that she has the same guidelines going into this season. She also said that during the season, the Trojans will not play if they have less than 23 people active to participate.
The Trojans AD said that initial turnout for her school was low. She will not make a decision until at least August 5, which is two weeks after the sport’s start date. The league grants all schools 14 days after the start date to declare whether they can compete.
Also at play is a new rule raising the forfeiture fee for games dropped during the season. Last season, Kohala paid $100 for each game that they could not play in. That amounted to a $700 total fine. Two of the games forfeited were homecoming games for their opponents.
This season, the fine rose to $1,600 each game. All but $100 goes to the school that lost a game.
BIIF Executive Director Lyle Crozier described the penalty as “pretty severe.” He said it is difficult for other schools to recoup revenue lost from a home game that they expected to have.
The new forfeiture penalty is a hefty fine considering football at Kohala is not a revenue-generating sport.
“We, basically, just with re-conditioning our equipment every year, are in the hole to start out the year,” Koustik explained. “And then, we’re lucky if we even pull $800 for a gate.
“With our situation last year, we ended up losing big time. We paid about $3,400 in re-conditioning costs and then we only had one home game that we didn’t recoup anywhere near that. We lost over $2,500 last year.”
Kohala opened the 2012 season by forfeiting a game against Kamehameha-Hawai`i. The Cowboys played three games after that before forfeiting the rest of the season. Ka`u gave up a game against the Warriors later in the season because of low numbers.
With the BIIF bringing back an old format that requires every school to face one another during the season, Kohala’s forfeiture amounts to a bye week for every school they were scheduled to face. No school had a week off scheduled during the regular season.
With early low numbers reported at a few other Division II programs, another cancellation could force the league to take another look at its schedule. Crozier said that the league’s currently playoff format, which calls for a championship game in each division, could change to accommodate another forfeit.
The first football games involving Big Island schools take place on Saturday, August 10. The league’s regular season kicks off on Friday, August 30.