LHSAA alternative pitched to Louisiana high schools; LSU might host group's championship games _lowres

Advocate staff photo by SCOTT THRELKELD ?-- Many Louisiana high schools recently received a copy of an outline for a new “athletic cooperative” to the LHSAA. ORG XMIT: BAT1512111955219056

A Louisiana House committee narrowly approved legislation Wednesday that would remove the separations between private and public schools for football and other athletic competitions.

Reacting to concerns that powerhouse private schools — like Catholic High in Baton Rouge and John Curtis Christian School in River Ridge — were recruiting athletes away from public schools, the Louisiana High School Athletic Association in 2013 separated the competitive categories into public and private schools as well as by the size of the schools.

Opponents of the current system, who testified in favor of House Bill 863, primarily from private schools, argued that the number of championships — went five to nine for football, for instance — watered down their importance. They wanted public schools and private schools to compete together again.

HB863 would forbid any school accepting public money from being a member of an interscholastic extracurricular athletic association that subdivides its schools into public and private, as well as other categories. The measure is sponsored by Rep. Kirk Talbot, R-River Ridge.

The legislation now goes to the full House for consideration.

The House Education Committee approved the controversial measure on a 7-5 vote. A lengthy debate featured John Curtis football coach J.T. Curtis, Jesuit Principal Fr. Anthony McGinn, Evangel Christian founder Denny Duron and Metairie Park Country Day basketball coach Mike McGuire. Sen. John Milkovich, D-Shreveport, and LHSAA Executive Director Eddie Bonine also addressed the group.

Voting FOR the legislation that lead to having public and private schools play together (7): Chairman Nancy Landry, R-Lafayette; and Reps. Beryl Amedee, R-Houma; Rick Edmonds, R-Baton Rouge; Stephanie Hilferty, R-Metairie; Walt Leger III, D-New Orleans; Chris Broadwater, R-Hammond; and Reid Falconer, R-Mandeville.

Voting AGAINST HB863 (5): Reps. Joe Bouie, D-New Orleans; Jeff Hall, D-Alexandria; Ed Price, D-Gonzales; Gene Reynolds, D-Minden; and Patricia Smith, D-Baton Rouge.