By JOE FERRARO
A five-member Big Island Interscholastic Federation appeals committee has ruled that Konawaena used an ineligible football player this season, forcing the Wildcats to forfeit two nonconference wins and one league victory.
BIIF vice president Troy Rimel said the player’s ineligibility stemmed from a violation of the league’s transfer rule, with the establishment of “legal residence and legal guardianship” being points of contention.
The appeals committee — it consisted of BIIF athletic directors Gary Oertel (Christian Liberty), Tom Correa (Waiakea), Kimo Weaver (Kamehameha), Keith Tolentino (Honokaa) and Ceri Whitfield (Parker) — received a violation report from a league school that labeled “several” Konawaena players ineligible. After the committee investigated the matter, it found one player ineligible and recommended to the BIIF’s three-member executive board on Sept. 19 a three-victory forfeiture for Konawaena and that the player in question not participate in football activities for the remainder of the season.
Rimel, who chose not to identify the player, served on the executive board along with league secretary and Honokaa principal Glenn Gray, and alternate executive board member Robert Dircks, Hilo’s principal. With the BIIF wanting to avoid a conflict of interest, Rimel took on Konawaena principal Shawn Suzuki’s role of BIIF president.
Konawaena appealed the ruling before the BIIF’s full board, which voted 9-1 to uphold the decision on Wednesday.
After receiving confirmation that the player and the family had been notified of the decision early Thursday morning, Rimel discussed the ruling shortly thereafter.
“It’s important as school administrators to be in contact with each other and make sure the parents understand what the rule is and make sure we help them out,’’ Rimel said. “It’s an unfortunate situation, and we feel very bad that this decision had to be made, but it is the rule.
“It’s a lesson for all of us to learn, and it will help us all make sure the students are successful in their transfers.”
The ruling erases Konawaena’s nonconference wins over Maui and Hilo, and a 49-13 victory over Honokaa in the league opener Sept. 1 for both teams, dropping the Wildcats to 4-1 in the BIIF and 4-4 overall.
Konawaena still controls its postseason destiny. With a victory over Kamehameha (5-0 BIIF, 8-0 overall) on Saturday, Konawaena can claim the Division II first-half regular-season title.
If the BIIF’s first-half champion also claims the second-half crown, that team will represent the league in the Hawaii High School Athletic Association Division II state playoffs. If the first- and second-half champs are different, a series of tiebreakers will determine the state playoff representative.
However, when asked about the appeals committee ruling, Konawaena coach Cliff Walters said he wasn’t overly concerned with wins and losses.
“It’s a tough pill to swallow for that child, that student and his family,’’ Walters said. “It’s very difficult. To us, he’s still a brother, still a team member. He will remain part of our team. My heart aches for his family.’’
Walters said the father of the player informed school administrators of the family planning to move into Konawaena’s school district last spring and that he “had applied for employment and had reason to believe he was going to get the job.’’
Konawaena athletic director Bill Trumbo said the father enrolled his son at Konawaena because of the family’s plan to move into the Konawaena district and that “there was verification of an address in our school district’’ in paperwork filed with the school.
“We try to do our due diligence in eligibility based on the information provided,’’ Trumbo said. “There wasn’t an attempt to lie or mislead.’’
After the Wildcats’ win over the Dragons, Walters said Suzuki informed him that the league might investigate the eligibility of the player in question. As a result, Walters did not allow the player to participate in any of the Wildcats’ next three games.
“I’m glad it came out when it did or else we would have had to forfeit other games,’’ Walters said.
Konawaena’s three-win forfeiture will stand, but Rimel said Suzuki plans on making an appeal to the HHSAA executive board in an attempt to grant the player in question eligibility for the state playoffs should the Wildcats get there. Suzuki must first request permission from the BIIF executive board to appeal the decision, and if the BIIF grants him that permission, the HHSAA executive board would address the appeal at a regular monthly meeting scheduled for Oct. 15.
“(Suzuki) doesn’t want this for Konawaena football, he wants it for that child and his family,” Walters said.