The announcement was made in Baton Rouge.
The applause could be heard all the way in New Orleans.
High school football coaches in the Greater New Orleans seemed pleased as word spread that the select/nonselect playoff format used by the LSHAA the past three years could be coming to an end.
“I’m glad we are back together,” Hahnville coach Nick Saltaformaggio said. “I hope it stays this way.”
The split playoff format isn’t officially done away with, but it looks to be after LHSAA Executive Director Eddie Bonine’s surprising announcement Friday morning.
Bonine said the LHSAA did not follow the guidelines set forth in its constitution when it passed the split format in 2013. The change should have gone through the executive committee for approval before the decisive vote by principals.
His announcement could mean the LHSAA returns to its traditional format of five classifications for football-playing schools. For the past three seasons, there have been nine state championships for football (five for nonselect schools and four for select schools).
But a final decision won’t be reached until late January when the LHSAA holds its annual convention. There is also a proposal on the convention’s agenda for a split between metro and rural schools.
“I’m excited as all anything if we’re back together,” Rummel coach Jay Roth said. “That’s the way it should be. High school football in Louisiana is too good to have that many state championships. I think it dilutes the competition.”
Covington coach Greg Salter was indifferent.
“There are so many good teams out there, so I am not sure if it matters,” Salter said. “Wherever they tell us to play, that’s where we will play.”
Newman coach Nelson Stewart wasn’t surprised to see the overwhelming support among coaches in the New Orleans area.
“I think around here, for the most part, everybody gets along,” Stewart said. “Being separated for three years, everybody realizes that we all need to be back playing together. People saw how special what we had was. The way it was these three years with the split format, everyone made the playoffs. It should mean something to make the playoffs.”
And for teams that don’t make the playoffs, so be it, said Roth.
“It was a motivating and humbling experience when we didn’t make the playoffs,” Roth said. “It happens. When that happens, you just have to bite the bullet and say ‘I don’t belong (in the playoffs).’ ”
Roth’s team has made it to the state championship game in three of the past four years.
Saltaformaggio is a proponent for everyone playing together, but says that won’t completely fix Louisiana’s issues that stem from some schools feeling others have a competitive advantage because of the recruiting of players.
“The problem is still the problem,” Saltaformaggio said. “The problem is still people going out and recruiting. It’s not just the private schools. It’s certain public schools as well. It’s almost like there is no attendance zone. Until the LHSAA deals with those schools individually and harshly, let’s just all play together.”
Landry-Walker coach Emanuel Powell also said he likes the school’s playing together, but would like to see a sixth classification added. Landry-Walker moved up to Class 5A this past season after competing in 4A and is one of the smaller schools in its classification.
“I don’t mind getting back together, but I would like to see the 5A and a 6A split,” Powell said. “We have about 1,200 to 1,300 students compared to a West Monroe with 3,000 or so; it’s really not a level playing field. I’m happy if we are back together, but it’s still not level.”
What happens next won’t be determined until the convention that will be held Jan. 27-29 in Baton Rouge.
“I’m hoping it’s fixed and everybody is back together,” Stewart said.