Even though the agenda for the Louisiana High School Athletic Association’s annual convention is a 30-page document, it didn’t take Baton Rouge area coaches and administrators long to start debating the most controversial proposals.
Discussions about two proposals that would divide the LHSAA into separate playoffs for select and nonselect schools dominated Baton Rouge’s area meeting attended by 36 school representatives Thursday morning at the LHSAA office.
Area meetings across the state Tuesday through Thursday provided a final chance for discussion before the LHSAA convention Jan. 23-25 at Baton Rouge’s Crowne Plaza.
“It’s hard to say how much support there is,” LHSAA Executive Director Kenny Henderson said. “A lot of people don’t speak up in meetings like this. “There are a lot of unknowns. We’ll have to act to fill in some gaps immediately if the one of them (proposals) passes.”
The first proposal submitted by former South Beauregard Principal Marlin Ramsey was amended and then tabled at last year’s convention. It would have to first get enough votes to be taken off the table for consideration.
South Beauregard’s proposal would not go into effect until 2015-16 and would divide teams into five championship divisions for nonselect and two for select schools in most sports. Henderson said Ramsey’s move to another job doesn’t alter the proposal’s status, and that it belongs to the LHSAA now.
The South Beauregard proposal defines nonselect schools as traditional public schools with set attendance zones. A select school is a public or private school that has an admission policy that selects which students can attend the school. The list includes private, magnet, laboratory, charter schools and dual cirriculum schools in which 33 percent of enrollment is based on a selection process.
The second proposal, from a group of principals headed by Winnfield’s Jane Griffin, would divide schools for championship honors in football only, allowing for five nonselect divisions and two select divisions. It would go into effect next fall.
Many of the definitions are the same in Griffin’s proposal. Dual curriculum schools with 25 percent select enrollment would be select under Griffin’s plan.
“I’ve spoken with a lot of principals who are in favor of this,” Doyle Principal Tommy Hodges said of the South Beauregard plan. “They want something that’d all encompassing. They’d hate to do football now, and then have to come back and correct that.”
The fact five private schools claimed football titles last fall was not directly mentioned, but the dominance by private school football powers John Curtis-River Ridge and Evangel Christian-Shreveport was.
Several others in the crowd offered different viewpoints.
“I don’t think you should try to legislate championships,” Catholic High track and cross country coach Pete Boudreaux said. “I’m not in favor of watering down the competition, which is what this would do.”
Brusly Athletic Director Tait Dupont offered some figures. Dupont told the group he researched a variety of championships the past 10-12 years and found select schools won 68 percent of girls state titles and 61 percent of boys state titles. Along with that, Dupont said 95 percent of the volleyball titles were won by select schools.
Episcopal Athletic Director Myra Mansur quickly responded and told the group, “First, you cannot control parents’ selection of schools. You also need to look at the offseason time and work the select schools put into some of these sports in the offseason as opposed to what the nonselect schools do. There are important differences there.”
Henderson said approval of Griffin’s plan would require immediate action by the LHSAA’s executive committee because it would likely make the 2013 football championships a three-day event with seven title games compared to the current five-game format.
Safety questions were raised because the top select division for football would have schools with enrollments of up to 2,000 competing against schools with as few as 500 students.
There was a brief debate over whether or not the select/non-select issues were linked only to football. While some offered other views, Henderson said he sees it is as a football issue.
“A few years ago, we had a volleyball program that won 13 straight state titles and you didn’t see anybody up in arms over that,” Henderson said. “In Louisiana, football is king. You hear about it when it’s football.”