Another chapter of the LHSAA’s both split saga unfolded Thursday when 54 percent of select schools voted to reject an offer to play their 2019 football titles games with nonselect schools at the Allstate Sugar Bowl/Prep Classic.
Even though the group opting reject playing at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome this fall includes 14 schools that have made past Prep Classics, key figures on both sides say they are eager to work toward a resolution for the LHSAA split that dates to 2013.
“No, I’m not surprised, but I too am disappointed,” LHSAA President Bruce Bundy of Mandeville High School said. “Realistically, it is hard to get 100 percent of people to agree on anything, which is what was required here. But I am hopeful that we can move forward and make this a one-year deal. Our objective now should be to work together on something that can bring the schools back together in January.”
Thirty-nine select football schools voted not to play in the Prep Classic, while 32 voted in favor of playing in the annual event, according to results of a vote by select school administrators released by the LHSAA.
The biggest divide was in Division I-Class 5A with nine of the 12 schools voting against playing in the Prep Classic. The tally was eight for and eight against in Division II-Class 4A/3A.
In Division III-Class 2A, it six for, eight against. In Division IV-1A, it was 15 for, 14 against.
All schools in each division would have had to vote in favor of playing in the Superdome in order for select games to be played there.
As it stands, the LHSAA’s nonselect title games will be played Dec. 12-14 at the Superdome. Select schools appear set to choose between one of three college sites that reportedly have expressed interest in hosting the football title events — UL, Tulane and Southeastern Louisiana — Dec. 6-8.
“No, I don’t think anybody is really surprised,” said Catholic-Baton Rouge Athletic Director J.P. Kelly, CEO of the Louisiana Select Association. “But again, unification is the thing to stress here. We want to work with the LHSAA to do everything we can to bring the schools back together in January.
“We understand that the LSA is not recognized by the LHSAA, but we believe we can help with that process. We want to be part of it. Hopefully, we can have discussions with the LHSAA soon.”
John Curtis football coach J.T. Curtis is among those who remain optimistic about a split resolution.
“My personal preference would have been for us to compete in the Superdome the week before the nonselect schools,” Curtis said. “It is so hard having two open dates like we do now. I will be interested to talk with our LSA leadership to see why that wasn’t an option.
“I’m disappointed, but we will move forward and make the best of it. We’ll put on the best championship events we can for our kids. Hopefully, we can work toward bringing the schools back together so we can move forward as one group. That is what I really want to see.”
The select vote is the latest event during a challenging nine-month period for the LHSAA and its select schools. At its January convention, LHSAA member principals voted to allow select schools to host standalone title events in sports split along select/nonselect lines — football, boys/girls basketball, baseball and softball.
But a structure for the select events came together slowly. In June, the LHSAA’s executive committee asked LHSAA Executive Director Eddie Bonine and his staff to formulate plans to either reunite the schools or prevent any additional split in sports championships. The LHSAA “split” began with football only in 2013.
The formation of the Louisiana Select Association, a group designed to provide structure for championship events, was finalized in late July. Though the LSA is not recognized by the LHSAA as a subgroup, its leadership has appeared before the executive committee.
A source close to the situation said that past Prep Classic participants who voted against returning to it included Archbishop Rummel, Catholic, Jesuit, John Curtis and Scotlandville in Division I. Others were Archbishop Hannan and St. Thomas More in Division II, Ascension Episcopal, Catholic-New Iberia, Lafayette Christian and St. Charles Catholic in Division III, along with two Division IV schools, Riverside Academy and Vermilion Catholic.
Bonine also was among those who expressed disappointment after the totals were released.
“I am extremely disappointed, but not surprised,” Bonine said. “I just think it’s sad and unfortunate that every team won’t get that opportunity to play at the Superdome this year. We’re still in the process of doing surveys about the split with our student athletes and with over 300 done, it was 100 percent that think the games should all be in the Superdome. I think that is worth noting.”