Former Kaua‘i High School head football coach Keli‘i Morgado was emotional as he sat in front of Kaua‘i County Council members yesterday to accept a certificate of recognition for the football team. It was all a little hard to sit through for him and the players because of the school’s recent decision not to renew his contract.
The team had been the Kaua‘i Interscholastic Federation champion for the past four seasons and were the state Division II runner-ups.
Dozens of football players, dressed in their matching black football T-shirts commented on how Morgado and the program changed their lives.
“It was a long road; it was eight years but it didn’t start out that way,” Morgado told the council. “It took a lot of commitment on (the team’s) part. It took a lot of abuse. For the guys who laid the groundwork, it was a tough road. They put the KIF on the map. This was a banner year for us.”
Fellow coaches and players took turns with the microphone to share with the council their experiences with Morgado and the high school’s football program.
Senior linebacker and co-captain Kevin Holtzman played for Morgado for four years.
“When I came off the plane, when I moved here from the Mainland my freshman year, everyone told me if I wanted to play football I had to go to Waimea High School,” Holtzman said. “But I went to Kaua‘i High and it was the best four years to be there because we were the champions every year.”
Afterwards, Holtzman said he appreciated the county recognizing the team despite its awkward timing.
“It’s about time they did something for us, even if it is right now. I just feel bad for the other players who will come back next year that might miss the opportunities we had,” he said in reference to Morgado not returning as the head coach.
Councilmember Mel Rapozo said he choked up while listening to the players and seeing Morgado sitting with them.
“It’s a good program and I think what the school has done is a mistake,” Rapozo said. “Everything you heard about Morgado is true. He is a good guy. He has a higher grade point average than the school does for the kids. It hurts. I don’t cry often, but look at all these kids and look at who suffers in this.”
Rapozo said yesterday’s recognition does not reflect the county’s stance on the current situation with the coaches and the high school administration.
“The timing is almost uncanny,” he said. “But this is not an attempt to make a position on what Kaua‘i is doing.”
The presentation of the certificate was originally scheduled for last month, but scheduling conflicts forced all parties to reschedule for yesterday.
“I had no idea this nonsense was going to happen. And that’s speaking as a parent,” Rapozo said.
In listening to everyone’s comments, Morgado felt proud of his players.
“I’m proud to have coached these kids and have these young men leave the program better people,” he said. “I got emotional. This whole thing is emotional. I think all people search for validity and hearing these statements of what they’ve accomplished was good.”
Kaua‘i athletic director Ross Shimabukuro said he didn’t know about the county’s recognition of the football players until last week.
He had no comment on whether this was good or bad for the program.
“I just want to move on,” Shimabukuro said.
He said he has no plans to attend tonight’s Football Booster’s Club meeting at the Lihu‘e Neighborhood Center at 7:30 p.m.
Morgado, however, will join coaches and parents there. Morgado said he will address any questions the public has for him about the stipulations in the contract that was offered to him.