How much difference can three or four students make in high school’s athletic classification?
Plenty. Woodlawn and Christian Life Academy are prime examples.
With an Oct. 1 enrollment of 1,156 students, Woodlawn just missed the cut to be part of the state’s largest class by three students. The Panthers learned they would be in Class 4A instead of 5A when the 2015-16 classification numbers and a first districting plan were released by the LHSAA on Wednesday.
“Obviously, we were hoping it would be that way,” Woodlawn Athletic Director/basketball coach Elmo Fernandez said. “We knew we were on the line. We love the 5A district (5-5A) that we’re in right now. But from a competitive standpoint being in 4A is much better for us in all sports.”
Then consider CLA with its 239 Oct. 1 enrollment. The Crusaders, a 1A school for a decade, now find themselves back in Class 2A. East Beauregard, the largest 1A school, had 238 students.
“Since that Oct. 1 date we’ve lost a few students,” CLA basketball coach Stephen Dale said. “There are some advantages to being in a 2A district where you can develop rivalries again with schools like Episcopal and Dunham.
“Our rivalry with Southern Lab has been great in 1A. I’m not sure anyone wants to be the smallest school in a class. Competitively, we’re a better fit for 1A as a program. This will be an adjustment.”
The reaction to different portions of the classification plan emerged Thursday. Some schools are planning appeals. Schools have until Monday to appeal their district placement. The next classification meeting is Feb. 25.
“For us it could have gone either way,” Livonia Athletic Director/football coach Guy Mistretta said. “If the Lafayette area schools had been districted east-west, we could have gone that way. But they were divided north and south. Several of our coaches, myself included, have spent most of our careers in Baton Rouge, so we’re excited to be back in a district there. Adding Woodlawn is going to make it real competitive.”
Livonia and Woodlawn join a revamped District 6-4A. Lutcher dropped down to Class 3A and moved to a New Orleans area district. Fernandez said Woodlawn would love to cultivate more of a rivalry with another 6-4A school, St. Michael. Belaire, Plaquemine and Tara are the other teams.
The moves in 6-4A are the biggest. Some question whether a change to 4-5A and 5-5A may be in order. The loss of Woodlawn leaves 5-5A with an odd number of schools. One proposed change would be moving Broadmoor from 4-5A to 5-5A.
However, McKinley is set to submit its own districting plan that would put East Baton Rouge Parish schools in one six-team district and place all Livingston/Ascension Parish schools in a six-team district.
“I haven’t submitted it (districting plan) yet, but I plan to,” McKinley Principal Herman Brister Jr. said. “I believe it would help generate more revenue for our schools and would cut down on travel time.
“Right now it’s hard for our parents to get to some of the road games, especially traveling I-10. It would also allow our students to get home earlier on game nights for sports like basketball.”
District 7-3A remained unchanged in the districting plan released Wednesday, but a revamped 6-2A would feature 10 teams, including nonfootball Lee High and Runnels.
Runnels Athletic Director/baseball coach Tookie Johnson said his school is planning an appeal that would allow the Raiders to remain in the Hammond area league they currently play in.
“We’re happy where we are,” Johnson said. “We’re currently part of an appeal, along with the Livingston Parish schools, that would allow us to do that. We’ve also been approached by Episcopal about a plan that would put us in a five-school group along with Episcopal, Dunham and Christian Life.”
The move of Madison Prep and CLA to Class 2A, coupled with West St. John’s decision to play up to Class 2A has reduced Baton Rouge’s 1A contingent by one team. The LHSAA plan has previous 8-1A members Ascension Catholic, Ascension Christian, East Iberville, St. John and White Castle combining with Kentwood and Southern Lab to form a new 6-1A.
While the new 6-1A plan is competitively pleasing, Ascension Catholic Athletic Director/football coach Doug Moreau’s concern is about the odd number of teams
“I see too many odd numbers in districts,” Moreau said. “When you’re 1A, its hard to find people to play you because there’s no class below you. Larger schools don’t want to play you because there’s no advantage there.”