There’s no shortage of opinions from those playing the latest LHSAA waiting game before Wednesday’s special-called meeting.
However, lobbyist Paul Rainwater offers none. The architect of a planned sports cooperative that would provide an alternative for select/private schools unhappy with the widening LHSAA playoff split is like everyone else — waiting.
“There’s nothing new to talk about at this point,” Rainwater said. “Everybody, including the Legislature, understands that there’s a lot going on.
“They’re giving the LHSAA some space and time to work through this. I think people want to see what happens with the meeting before making any decisions, which is understandable.”
Member principals meet at 11 a.m. Wednesday at the Crowne Plaza to consider alternatives to a plan passed in January that expands the LHSAA’s split championships beyond football to include boys/girls basketball, baseball and softball.
Rainwater said he expects some sort of meeting to take place once Wednesday’s vote is in.
Principals have four proposals and five options to consider. There’s a “none of these” choice that would send the LHSAA into action to implement the plan from Many Principal Norman Booker that passed in January. It increases the number of championships in those sports from seven to 12.
Two plans would bring schools back together differently. Each would mandate the enrollment of select schools (private, some charter, magnet and laboratory schools) to be multiplied by 1.5 for classification purposes. The multiplier is an equalizer others states, including Arkansas, already use in some form.
The other two proposals, which reshape how select/nonselect schools are divided for playoff purposes, continuing debate about what is right for Louisiana. The opinions of coaches and principals also is decidedly split.
“The thing is, I really do get both sides of the argument,” Louisiana High School Basketball Coaches Association President Chris Beckman of Episcopal said. “I see the frustrations the rural schools have, I really do, and so do the coaches. We’ve talked about it some as a group and about all the things at stake.
“We know it’s a not a situation where every select school recruits, and people also know there are public schools that recruit. Our preference would be to enforce the rules and punish the schools that aren’t following them.
“I’m afraid you lose too much if you continue to split things. If this passes and the private schools leave to form a new association, some schools will be OK. Others, like the inner city schools, will be hurt.”
Mark Carroll of Denham Springs is the president of the Louisiana Baseball Coaches Association. His group is again looking at changes to the LHSAA’s best-of-three format playoff format with series for three rounds and a tourney with quarterfinal games.
Whether the best of the best select/nonselect teams continue to play each other remains a key topic.
“We haven’t met and talked about it formally as a group,” Carroll said. “We have members from public and private schools in our association, and we enjoy competing against each other.
“I’m from Monroe, and I’ve coached at public and private schools. There are advantages and disadvantages both ways. The folks in north Louisiana are adamant about it, they want a split in everything. I’d hate for us to stop competing against each other.”
Carroll’s principal, Kelly Jones, surprised some by voting against the split in January, something few principals in parishes surrounding Baton Rouge did. Jones said he wouldn’t be opposed to a continued split of LHSAA football championships but is wary of deepening the divide.
“I think we need to look closely at what we’re doing,” Jones said. “Is this a problem that primarily involves four or five schools? If it is, address that problem. Rules enforcement is a big part of this. I know there are private schools that recruit, and I’m not foolish enough to believe no public schools recruit because I know they do.
“You’ve got issues on both sides of this. Do we really want to blow up the LHSAA based on what a handful of schools are doing? That’s a big question.”
Doyle Principal Tommy Hodges played basketball at Redemptorist in the early 1990s. He’s now a member of the LHSAA executive committee and a vocal advocate for a split of LHSAA championships.
“People want to fix recruiting, but the only way to do that is to catch the ones doing it red-handed,” Hodges said. “That’s virtually impossible to do, and that’s part of the frustration. I don’t see it ever happening.
“And there are differences between the schools. I know there are private schools with great academics and some others people may question. It’s the same for public schools. But our testing standards are different. We’re too different I’m afraid.”
The possibility of a near or complete split may satisfy some like Hodges, but it offers a quandary for others.
“As a competitor, you want to play the best, no matter who that is,” said one coach who spoke anonymously. “I’d rather play the best and lose. If I won a state championship and things are split, it would eat at me. I’d wonder if we really were the best. With a split you’d never know.”