YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — On the surface, it would seem Kyle Rhodus assumed control of a sinking ship when he agreed to be commissioner of the U.S. Forces Japan-American Football League.

The three members of the seven-team league from Okinawa left during the offseason, leaving just four.

In the past four years, 32 games either were postponed, forfeited or canceled, including the 2001 and 2003 league championship games.

Given the problems the league has faced since 2000, “if somebody didn’t step up and take the reins, it would have folded, and that, to me, was unacceptable,” said Rhodus, who became the league’s third commissioner in 15 months after Joseph Howell resigned after last season, his first on the job.

Rhodus, 30, who came to the Pacific four years ago as athletic director at Sasebo Naval Base before taking that same job at Yokosuka in 2002, was selected as commissioner during the league’s winter meeting in January.

By day, he handles the Fleet Activities Yokosuka athletic department’s nearly $30 million budget. As part-time commissioner, he oversees the league’s remaining four teams: Misawa, Yokota, Atsugi and Yokosuka.

Not having the Okinawa teams, Rhodus said, makes it easier to coordinate scheduling and resolve conflicts “because everybody is so close. . . . All the coaches are dedicated to having a good season, and not having games called off for reasons beyond their control.”

Rhodus quickly moved to rewrite rules about game postponements and cancellations he felt were too lenient and gave teams too many windows to call off a trip.

Now, if a team must back out of a game because of duty or transportation problems, it may reschedule just once. A second such incident will result in an automatic forfeit.

“Convincing the coaches we can make this happen regardless of issues” was a key to selling the stricter rules, Rhodus said. The season also contains two “bye weeks” aimed at making rescheduling easier.

“If they have to play with 15 players, it has to happen, and I think the coaches are on board with that,” he added. “If a game gets called off, we’ll know when it’s going to be played next. More certainty. It won’t stretch into a five-month season.”

“We have to go with what we’ve got,” said Seahawks second-year coach Isaac Lee. “Everybody in the league is going to have issues, different organizations have different missions. But we have to play. We have to go with this.”

Rhodus said the new system, if maintained, should benefit Atsugi and Misawa, which don’t receive the same command backing as fully-funded Yokosuka and Yokota. “I hope the effort of this league this season brings some attention and support to those two teams,” Rhodus said.

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Dave Ornauer has been employed by or assigned to Stars and Stripes Pacific almost continuously since March 5, 1981. He covers interservice and high school sports at DODEA-Pacific schools and manages the Pacific Storm Tracker.

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