Why One Athlete Chose Kaiser

Few topics spark as much intense debate as the subject of recruiting in high school athletics.

Last week Farrington High head football coach Randall Okimoto alleged three league champions recruited players to their schools to play football. Okimoto believes that Mililani, Kaiser and Punahou have violated rules against recruiting. Part of the reason this arouses so much passion is that it clearly plays into the haves and have-nots division in our state. Punahou is in a slightly different situation than the other two because it is an elite and expensive private school that can grant financial aid or endow scholarships to qualified students. Mililani and Kaiser are public schools and are free to attend.

While some coaches and boosters have undoubtedly crossed lines in promoting their programs, there is disagreement about what constitutes illegal recruiting. When word gets around that a program offers excellent coaching, good facilities, academic support and help obtaining admission and/or scholarships for college, parents take note of it. Most parents are dedicated to providing the best opportunities they can for their children’s futures. When a parent decides that a certain school is a better fit for their son or daughter, it doesn’t surprise me that they will go to great lengths to provide that opportunity, even moving from one district to another. It often is alleged by those who believe illegal recruiting is taking place that false addresses and financial benefits are being provided to families of good players. But as HHSAA head Chris Chun told the Star -Advertiser after receiving an informal complaint, he would take no other action unless there were facts to accompany the rumors.

One of the accused coaches is Kaiser’s Rich Miano, well-known in the community for his UH and NFL playing career, as well as a 12-year assistant coaching stint at UH. I’ve known Rich for 25 years, worked with him in the broadcast booth for a couple of years, and have never gotten anything from him but the unvarnished truth. When he tells me that he has never encouraged a kid to transfer, I believe him. He also said that making sure his staff stays within the rules is an ongoing process and he couldn’t guarantee that nobody has ever overstepped, but everyone has been instructed not to engage in questionable behaviors.

While discussing the topic on radio last week, we got a call from a mother who told us this story:

Her son wasn’t happy at Iolani, and despite loving what that school had done for another of her children she began to look for a good fit. The woman’s name is Julia Slade-Matautia and her son Isaac is now a freshman at Kaiser. She liked that Kaiser had a baccalaureate program, knew of Rich Miano and strength and conditioning coach Chad Ikei’s reputations, and felt it was an excellent opportunity for Isaac to grow academically and athletically.

Julia and her husband moved into the Kaiser district so Isaac could have the opportunity to attend. Isaac is possibly the most gifted freshman football player in the state, starting every game at linebacker for the Cougars in 2013. He is doing very well in school and is happy at Kaiser. For his parents, the process is about finding the best situation and opportunities for their children. They are committed parents and that’s what committed parents do.