New DODDS Pacific football plan explained
Published: June 12, 2012
Put together a full inter-district Pacific high school football schedule, matching each Division I and Division II team against each other at least once, keeping local and DODDS leagues’ integrity intact and all the while try to cut costs – target $25 million – in the DODDS Pacific athletics budget as possible.
That was the challenge facing DODDS Pacific’s Far East athletics coordinator Don Hobbs and the 12 DODDS Pacific/DDESS Guam athletics directors at their meeting in April at Yokota Air Base. What resulted, Hobbs said, is a plan years in the making that he hopes will bear the fruit they’re seeking.
“I’m crossing my fingers, hoping things will work,” said Hobbs on Tuesday during a wide-ranging interview at his DODDS Pacific area office desk on Okinawa’s Torii Station.
He’s entering his 10th school year in his current position, about half of which has seen discussion about such a football plan. “We have something in place now,” Hobbs said.
What’s in place involves the following:
-- Division I’s Yokota and Nile C. Kinnick of Japan, Kadena and Kubasaki of Okinawa and Seoul American play each other at least once. Kadena and Kubasaki battle each other twice, each game counting as half, and will face DODDS Korea’s three teams once each plus travel to Singapore to face its all-star Falcons once. Seoul American plays its DODDS Korea rivals Osan American and Daegu High twice each, and Kadena, Kubasaki, Kinnick and Yokota once each. Yokota and Kinnick play each other twice, each game counting as half, and keep the integrity of their DODDS Japan and Kanto Plain schedules, facing Zama American, Robert D. Edgren and American School In Japan twice each.
-- The four Division II football-playing schools, Zama, Edgren, Osan and Daegu, will play a similar bounty of games. Zama and Edgren play each other once each at home and on the road, each game counting as half and also play the balance of their DODDS Japan schedules, Yokota, Kinnick and American School In Japan twice each. Osan and Daegu play once each with each game counting as half. Each also host Singapore and play Zama, Edgren and its Okinawa counterparts once each, in addition to facing Seoul American twice each.
Hobbs said tiebreaker scenarios are still being discussed and should be finalized late this week or early next week.
This is the latest incarnation of football in DODDS Pacific, which went to a playoff system for D-I and D-II starting in 2005. The DODDS Japan and Korea D-II champions would face each other in the title game, with the host site rotating between Korea in odd-numbered years and Japan in even-numbered years. DODDS D-I champions from Japan and Okinawa plus Seoul American and Guam High, the only DODDS/DDESS entities in their regions, would play semifinal games, with the winners playing for the D-I title the following week.
Under the new system, The teams with the best two win-loss records each in Divisions I and II play each other for their respective division titles, D-II on Nov. 10 and D-I on Nov. 17, at the sites of the teams with the best win-loss records.
“We’ll go with it and hope on Nov. 17, we can say we had a plan, we implemented the plan and it worked out,” Hobbs said, adding that there was some discussion about holding both title games the same day.
To help make the plan work, streamline the size of traveling teams and and cut costs along the way, the Division I semifinal games, held under previous plans, have been eliminated, Hobbs said. The size of the traveling squads, previously 25 players and three coaches, have been reduced to 20 and two.
Pre-existing leagues, DODDS Japan and Korea and the Kanto Plain Association of Secondary Schools still crown champions, although none count toward playoff qualification, as was the case under the previous plan.
For the most part, reaction to the new plan, made public by Hobbs via e-mail last Friday, was positive.
“It’s a good deal. I’m excited about it,” coach Steven Merrell of Zama American said. “It gives the kids the best opportunity and the most competitive situation and the kids get unique travel opportunities.”
D-II should see some expansion in coming years, with Matthew C. Perry slated to return to varsity football in 2013 for the first time in 10 years, and Humphreys American School expected to add grades 9 through 12 for school year 2013-14.
“I like the idea of competing with more teams to qualify for the playoffs,” Merrell said.
Not all parties were content with the new plan, however. Privately, at least one athletics director opposed the idea of Division I teams playing against Division II teams during the regular season.
Guam High will no longer be a part of the D-I football playoff picture, and instead will focus on its commitment to the Independent Interscholastic Athletic Association of Guam league, unlike last year, when the Panthers chased both the IIAAG and D-I titles.
It was a case of unfortunate timing, Hobbs said. While wanting to accommodate Guam High, because the IIAAG and DODDS seasons begin and end in different time blocks, DODDS was forced to schedule Kinnick and Yokota’s two games in September; same was the case with Kadena and Kubasaki.
While that permitted Guam High to play a play-in game Oct. 3 at Kadena, it left Kadena without any scheduled games until its second-round D-I playoff game at Yokota on Oct. 29 – 26 days between games. Kadena didn’t even have a homecoming as a result.
In addition to its IIAAG commitment, DODDS Pacific will fund an in-season trip for Guam High to play one of its Japan or Korea counterparts. They’ll visit Kubasaki this season and in future years will play Osan, Daegu, Seoul American and Kadena, teams in the most need of in-season games, Hobbs said.
That didn’t mollify Jacob Dowdell, coach of a Guam High team that won its first IIAAG title in 2010. “You can just imagine how I felt” when he learned of DODDS’ new football plan, he said.
“Especially when you see how everybody is flying all over the place, to say they couldn’t fit us in, that hurt. But whatever is whatever. We’ll focus on football. The expectation is to go back to the (IIAAG) final and take back what belongs to us. We’re excited. Panther Nation is excited.”
The door is open, Hobbs said, for American School In Japan to be a part of the playoff picture, should the Mustangs 1) fully commit to a complete D-I schedule, as their DODDS Japan and Korea counterparts, and 2) of course finish with one of the two best regular-season records.
“They’re not scheduled to play all the (D-I) teams in the Far East,” Hobbs said. “We don’t want to make it a year-to-year situation” to see if ASIJ will commit to a playoff or not.
That may be difficult, Mustangs longtime defensive coach John Seevers said. The school’s Japan Understanding and Motivational Program, a three-day out-of-school event, takes place in November, right around Far East tournament week. “We always like to play higher competition, (but) that would make it difficult for us,” Seevers said. “Quite a few variables, a lot of ifs, a lot of things to consider.”
In other developments at the April ADs meeting:
-- Hobbs said there may no longer be future face-to-face get-togethers with the availability of Web conferencing tools such as Skype and Web Meeting. Future meetings might see Hobbs Web conferencing from Okinawa with Korea ADs one day, Japan ADs the next day and a visit with the Okinawa ADs either of the first two days, followed by a Pacific-wide Web conference the third day. It would save travel and per diem costs, Hobbs said.
-- While football was the only sport which saw cuts in participants “at the moment,” Hobbs said other sports may face similar trims and some tournaments may be shortened in the interest of saving airline and per diem costs for athletes and coaches and to save on officiating fees. Soccer tournaments at both the D-I and D-II levels may be cut from five days to four and athletes may be trimmed to the tune of one per team, from 15 to 14, Hobbs said.
-- Most spring tournaments will change location since they’ve each reached the two-year rotation point. D-II boys soccer moves from Osan to Perry, D-II girls soccer from Perry to Edgren, D-I and D-II baseball from Daegu to Zama, D-I boys soccer from Kubasaki to Kadena and D-I girls soccer from Kadena to Kinnick. All are slated to start on May 20. Track and field remains at Yokota and is currently slated to begin May 21, but could begin a day earlier, Hobbs said.
-- Also changing location is cross country Nov. 5 and 6, but that site has yet to be determined, Hobbs said. D-I boys basketball moves from Guam High to Kubasaki, while girls D-I volleyball moves from Seoul American to Guam.
-- Wrestling remains at Kinnick, but for the first time, wrestling will be held the same week as basketball. That’s part of a move to ensure that all Far East tournaments in all sports each season will be held the same week, to ensure that student-athletes are away for as few days as possible, and also to standardize the lengths of seasons for all sports in all divisions in all genders, Hobbs said. They’re looking at making such a move permanent for all sports in all seasons.
-- Far East track and field the first two years saw each school permitted to bring 10 boys and 10 girls athletes without regard to qualifying times and distances. This year, athletes had to qualify to attend Far East, meaning some schools fielded more athletes than others, and one school, Edgren, not at all. Next May’s Far East may seek to meet both methods half way, Hobbs said. To be discussed at Septembers ADs meeting is a proposal allowing each school to bring a minimum of four boys and four girls without them having to qualify. They may bring a maximum of 10 boys and 10 girls, but anything above four must qualify. Also, if an athlete qualifies for one event, they may be entered in as many as four. Again, all that is to be discussed in September’s ADs meeting, be it face-to-face or via video conference.