Hawaii Football Club, a nonprofit based in Hilo, is working to start a statewide football league called “Hawaii 8” for local college students.
“It’s club college football. It’s going to be offered on all islands and exclusive to Hawaii college students,” said Keala Pule, HFC executive director. “It’s going to be its own conference. We’re starting with five teams for our inaugural season. Over the next couple of seasons, we’re going to bring in three other areas – one on the Big Island, in West Hawaii, and two in Honolulu. That will bring the total to eight.”
The last few years, HFC has hosted the Life Champion Bowl, a football showcase for high school seniors wanting to earn college football scholarships.
Pule said the intention with Hawaii 8 is to provide local college students an affordable option to continue playing football while they’re working toward earning their degree.
In addition, Pule said the club aims to serve local colleges by giving student-athletes an incentive to stay in Hawaii rather than move elsewhere to go to school, or give those who’ve left for the mainland already an option to return home.
“We can also put money back into our communities rather than spending it in others for college. It can help boost our campuses, not just in enrollment, but maybe one day can provide programs that can meet the needs of some of the students,” Pule said.
Pule added: “At the end of the day, football is going to offer them opportunities based on what they put into it. If there’s a chance they can use it as a launching pad for their athletics, to move on to a four-year school, great. Use it. If it’s something that helps them stay disciplined and keeps them on campus and on track to earn their degree, then we want to help them and provide that venue for them.”
The five established Hawaii 8 clubs, two are from Oahu and one from each Kauai, Maui and Big Island.
Though this will be a club sport, Pule said members will abide by NCAA academic requirements.
Something Pule stressed for potential players is that in order to tryout, members must be enrolled at their respective schools either full time or part time in the prior fall and must be full-time students in the spring when the season starts.
Another thing is that in order for them to participate for their second season, students must have 24 passing credits.
“All of them are going to have to perform at a standard,” he said. “We have our academic standards for Hawaii 8, but also we want to hold it so that if it is their goal to continue at a four-year program somewhere, that they are eligible for it. So, meeting the academic standards and maintaining their amateur status is very important.”
Stacy Iwasaki will be the head coach for Kauai’s Hawaii 8 club.
Iwasaki previously was an assistant varsity and junior varsity football coach at Kauai High School and was a Pop Warner coach.
This will be his first time as a head coach. Iwasaki credits the other coaches he’s learned from.
“All those guys mentored me. Hopefully, I’ll take a little bit of all that and put it into this program,” Iwasaki said.
Iwasaki has been involved with HFC since 2015. He said he was chosen to head the Kauai club because he has a college degree himself and his sons played college football. He hopes to help his Hawaii 8 players do the same.
“I totally believe in the people that are involved with it. Celeste and Keala Pule, their intentions are, to me, absolutely great,” Iwasaki said. “We’ve had backing from people who have donated. Even Marcus Mariota has contributed and helped out. It’s a good organization.”
As far as how costs will be covered, Pule said it will be “included in the membership, the fundraising that we do and sponsorships.”
“We have a financial plan to piece that all together. That’s not something we’re going to share at this moment, but I can tell you that we have made it so it’s affordable for the families,” he said.
Pule plans to set up a meeting on Kauai in April to meet with student-athletes and families.
If all goes to plan, HFC will hold tryouts for Hawaii 8 this summer and will have its inaugural Hawaii 8 season in spring of next year.
Info: Iwasaki: Kauaifootball@gmx.com; Hawaii Football Club: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Nick Celario, sports writer, can be reached at 245-0437 or email@example.com.