As a truly unusual week unfolded, I couldn’t help thinking about the opening line in Charles Dickens’ “A Tale of Two Cities.”
The immortal phrase, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,” referred to the French revolution period in the late 1700s.
It’s a sentiment the Louisiana High School Athletic Association can relate to in 2011.
On one hand, the LHSAA is in the midst of its fall championship season. The football playoffs got off to a lively start Friday, and the state volleyball tournament has been going strong in New Orleans.
Next week, there’s the state cross country championships in Natchitoches, followed by state swimming championships in Sulphur. All these events typically generate a positive buzz for the LHSAA.
The past week also included attention-grabbing incidents that were buzz kills for the governing body of high school sports in Louisiana.
It started last Sunday when Mandeville’s Lakeshore High came in to plead for a spot in the Class 4A football playoff bracket.
The plea was rejected based on an LHSAA by-law that requires schools to wait two years before playing for championship honors. Never mind that the Lakeshore volleyball team was already in the playoffs. A day later, Lakeshore appealed and won. As it turned out, the statute cited was not in effect when the school joined the LHSAA.
At midweek, the family of a local student who transferred from one private school to another filed suit against the LHSAA, citing discrimination because the student in question was ruled ineligible to compete at the new school this year.
Thursday brought perhaps the biggest hit of all. The LHSAA announced it is relocating its State Wrestling Tournament and Top 28 Finals Basketball from Bossier City.
Why? Because the Shreveport area’s new governing sports body, the Shreveport-Bossier Sports Commission, wanted to re-negotiate the sweet deal brokered by another group in 2010 that gave the LHSAA the CenturyLink Arena and staffing free of charge, citing the inability to carry out the terms of the original bid.
This is not the first time the LHSAA has faced a lawsuit based on the results of an eligibility ruling and it likely won’t be the last. There have been other appeals by teams looking to make their way into its football playoffs.
Though it has happened rarely, the LHSAA has had to move championships events before, most notably in 2005 after Hurricane Katrina.
None of these issues are new, but the combination is a kind of perfect storm.
The best thing for the LHSAA to do at this time of the year is to help orchestrate successful playoff/tournament experiences for its schools.
That old adage you can’t please all the people all of the time holds true. But when teams are picking up trophies and all-academic awards life is generally good.
Now, while watching teams pick up trophies and awards, the LHSAA is being scrutinized for other reasons.
Having the games in Bossier City was a big part of the LHSAA’s plan to revolutionize its basketball playoffs with a combined boys-girls final tournament. Thankfully, the regional sites for semifinals — Hammond, Monroe and Lake Charles — remain in place.
Bossier City was supposed to be a fresh start for a new event that combines the LHSAA’s traditional girls and boys tournaments.
The LHSAA is starting over now, seeking a site for the wrestling tournament in February and the March-based basketball tournament.
It’s a little like being in a football or basketball game with 10 seconds left and no timeouts to call. And the clock is ticking.
Can the LHSAA and its Executive Director Kenny Henderson call a successful audible or draw up the right play?
Stay tuned. You can bet plenty of people are watching.