HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Last fall, Kaiser High School offensive lineman Michael Eletise became the most highly-recruited athlete to ever star on a Hawaii high school football field.
More than 40 division-one schools offered athletic scholarships to the 6'4", 320-pound prospect, including the University of Arizona, where he eventually decided to attend. Most of the interested programs, however, knew of Eletise's potential long before his senior season began.
"It was a very important camp for me, just to get noticed, because it's hard to fly out to all these schools and go to their specific camps," said Eletise, speaking of the GPA/Maximum Exposure Football Camp held annually on Oahu. "To have so many different coaches there, it helps to get your name out there."
The camp, like dozens of others like it across the country, gives student-athletes an opportunity to participate in football-related drills in front of coaches from schools across the country; organizers say 83 coaches attended GPA in 2015. Players like Eletise say the exposure from such camps directly impacted his visibility on the radars of collegiate recruiters.
But opportunities like Eletise's could soon be in short supply. On April 8, the NCAA's Division 1 Council voted to shut down the camps, mandating college coaches only hold clinics on their own campuses. Former University of Hawaii assistant Rich Miano says that ruling has a particularly strong impact on local athletes.
"In Hawaii, because of the logistics of getting on one plane, the costs are prohibitive and the opportunities are so limited," said Miano. "We are definitely more affected than any other state in the country."
Should the new rule, set to be voted upon by the NCAA on Thursday, actually go into effect, the problems for Hawaii high school athletes would be similar to those faced by the University of Hawaii's athletic programs. The cost of airfare, ground transportation and lodging for an athlete and accompanying family member could increase the cost of playing in front of a potential coach by thousands of dollars.
"They can't just pack a car up with six of their teammates and drive six hours to another campus," said Chad Ikei, a strength and conditioning coach who works with dozens of Hawaii-based student athletes. "The traveling back and forth, multiple weekends, to go to multiple camps, is virtually impossible."
Regardless of whether the measure passes, players like Eletise, who have already signed letters of intent to play college sports, will not be impacted by the ruling. Younger student athletes, like Saint Louis junior defensive back Isaiah Tufaga, are the ones who will be directly impacted.
"It's hard to get that exposure, since everything is so close [for mainland student-athletes], where we have to fly out," said Tufaga. "They're looking for someone to bring to their school and impact their program. Which I think we all can do, as people from the islands."
Nearly 15,000 people have already signed a petition asking the NCAA to overturn the ruling during Thursday's vote. To view that petition, click here.