By BILL O’REAR
Tribune-Herald sports editor
Kohala High School will not field a football team for the 2013-14 Big Island Interscholastic Federation season.
Kohala athletic director Laurie Koustik announced the school’s decision Thursday, three days after the league’s official starting date for organized conditioning workouts. She noted that 25 players showed up for the workouts, but that only 16 had taken their mandatory physicals to be eligible to participate.
Koustik said the school, along with head football coach Reginald Tolentino, set a limit of 30 players in order to field a team this year. The AD watched the first three days of conditioning with a small roster before announcing the decision to drop football this season.
The BIIF preseason opens Aug. 10 with Waiakea at Hawaii Prep (2 p.m.) and Kalaheo at Kamehameha (7 p.m.).
Koustik said she was disappointed to drop football, but she cited low turnout and safety concerns that led to the decision.
“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,” she said. “But, in our case, I feel like that’s what we had to do.”
Koustik said the football players could “see the writing on the wall” with the lack of numbers.
“Everyone knew the expectations coming in, they had a good idea of what was going on,” she said. “It’s always tough to drop a program. It’s a tough decision but you have to be realistic.”
Koustik said some of the student-athletes might try out for the school’s cross country team or focus on academics as they gear up for the winter and spring sports.
“It’s difficult for the boys because we only participate in football and cross country in the fall,” she said. “If you take away football, that only leaves us with cross country. For us, we try to offer our student-athletes the opportunity to participate. That’s one thing we’ll miss in the fall without football — the opportunity to play.”
BIIF Executive Director Lyle Crozier said that both Kohala and Ka’u had informed the league ADs about the challenges of the small schools fielding a football team. Ka’u AD Kalei Namohala is still closely monitoring the Trojans’ squad and like Koustik at Kohala, had hoped to field a team with a minimum of 30 players.
On Thursday, Namohala said Ka’u would not compete in football this season if the Trojans had fewer than 30 players to start the season. She said Ka’u will wait until at least Aug. 5 before declaring whether it will field a team or drop the sport this year.
If a school opts to play and then has to forfeit away games due to a lack of healthy or eligible players, it would be fined $1,600 per game this year. If the school forfeited a home game, it would be fined $100 per game.
Crozier said the large fine for away games was adopted to help the schools recoup revenues lost from home games.
With Kohala dropping out, the BIIF currently has four Division I teams in Kealakehe, Hilo, Waiakea and Keaau as well as five D-II teams in Kamehameha, Konawaena, Hawaii Prep, Honokaa and Ka’u.
Crozier said the BIIF will follow the proposed schedule of playing each team once during the regular season and teams that would have played Kohala, will now have a bye.
Crozier also noted that the league will wait until Ka’u declares its intentions on Aug. 5. If the Trojans drop out, the BIIF will revise the overall regular season schedule, which runs nine weeks, with a 10th week set aside for the playoffs.
“We’re hoping that Ka’u will be able to participate,” Crozier said. “But we’ll have to wait and allow Ka’u to make the best decision for its own student-athletes.”
The BIIF regular season is scheduled to start Aug. 30.