Ready or not, here we go.
After two meetings last week and plenty of talk, that is the only conclusion I can come to as we are just a few months away from implementing the latest LHSAA split.
Unlike the first two, select schools orchestrated this division of LHSAA championship events. Schools were placed into separate championship brackets for football, basketball, baseball and softball by nonselect or public schools with the first two splits.
The latest division appears to lack some structure, even though the proposals by Teurlings Catholic Principal Mike Boyer seemed to map out a path. Those proposals listed higher seeds as the host schools for finals in football and semifinals and finals in the other sports.
There is a point of contention in the wording of the basketball proposal, which inadvertently left in language that requires LHSAA approval for host sites.
Let me stress that I have empathy for all involved. Like many people on both sides of the split, I do not see LHSAA schools coming back together in a traditional seven-class format. Attempts at compromise have failed. The notion that Boyer’s proposals would allow the LHSAA to recoup solid profits on ticket percentages while reducing the cost of championship events has merit.
But once again, a common theme emerges. It is the unintended consequences that get you. Talk of a deeper split, one of all sports and/or one that would also include the regular season has increased. Losing the chance to play in either the Mercedes-Benz Superdome or a large basketball arena is a big loss for teens in 2019-20.
Perhaps one of the biggest issues this time may be that select/private schools can’t really rely on the LHSAA system to provide structure. The LHSAA provided a structure for the first two splits, and we quickly saw how increasing the number of championships and games changed things.
That structure is cumbersome and unfair to select schools and smaller schools in many ways. You have too many games, and based on the crowds attracted by schools, the game-time slots were not optimal for many select/private schools.
Would it be better for select schools to play their games in prime time, rather than at 10 a.m. or a noon? Absolutely. With the large number of games, select schools and schools with smaller enrollments and fan bases draw those slots.
But when LHSAA member principals voted to give select schools control of their playoffs a couple of years ago, that took the LHSAA structure out of the picture.
I understand the frustration of the select/private schools. First, their schools are forced into a playoff structure they don’t want and within that structure there is less chance to showcase their schools.
However, LHSAA executive director Eddie Bonine is correct in stating select schools cannot be part of Allstate Sugar Bowl/LHSAA Prep Classic football championships, based on Boyer’s proposal.
I say this knowing that a group of private schools did inquire about playing “their championships” in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. There is some sadness for Bonine, too. His son, Caleb, is planning to play football at Catholic High this fall and is in the group of select students who don't have the Superdome as a possibility.
The idea of select schools playing championship games at neutral or college sites near the higher seed seems to make sense.
But I’m not sure how schools can do this without an agreement in advance of title events. Some, but not all sites, will likely require a contract. Can select schools do that without the LHSAA? Schools have the right to refuse a game at a neutral site, and that could topple those plans.
I found it telling that one thing Loyola College Prep Principal John Leblanc is asking for on behalf of select schools is what they are responsible for when hosting a title game.
That is not as strange as it sounds. We are no longer in the 1960s or 1970s when teams played title games and got trophies. Teams get pictures, T-shirts are sold, there are programs etc. All-Academic team presentations. It is an experience.
Romaguera/RomaPics Photography told the LHSAA executive committee they will have issues staffing all events and likely will not be able to provide picture prints on site. RomaPics has a contract for all LHSAA events, so you see the issue.
Back to the future? Trust me, it is complicated.