Plan gives LHSAA one more chance to save itself
Convincing a majority of principals to approve a last-ditch proposal from the Louisiana High School Athletic Association’s School Relations Committee to end the playoff divide that threatens the very existence of the LHSAA hardly will be a slam dunk.
The idea of putting this “hybrid non-discriminating plan” to a general floor vote barely made it out of last week’s LHSAA executive committee meeting by an 11-10 margin.
But it does flash a glimmer of hope. In an upcoming special session, all LHSAA schools will be asked to consider the plan in a re-vote.
If the principals don’t take this last opportunity to save the LHSAA, the 97-year-old association may end as we know it. Many interested observers, from potential new sponsors to the Louisiana Legislature, are in the audience.
There are three significant items to present to principals, most of whom voted in January to extend separate playoffs for public and non-public schools to the sports of boys’ and girls’ basketball, baseball and softball.
They did so without consideration for the schools that would adversely be affected, namely the private and Catholic schools, which are fewer in number and would be unable to fill 32- or even 16-team brackets.
Introduced by Teurlings Catholic principal Michael Boyer, who chairs the School Relations Committee, the “hybrid plan” calls for:
1. Select (private) and non-select (public) schools participate against each other in classes 5A and 4A for all championship sports.
2. Classes 3A, 2A and 1A (the majority of schools whose principals voted for the split) would hold separate playoffs based on the schools’ location in metropolitan or rural areas.
3. The 71 schools that comprise classes B and C would combine into a single class and have one common playoff for all sports. These are low-enrollment schools that do not participate in football.
This well-thought-out plan is the fruit of four meetings of the School Relations Committee.
Ten executive committee members voted against moving the plan forward because they did not want to appear to override the will of the principals. It didn’t matter that it created hardships for private and Catholic schools.
They cared not that there are only seven “select” schools in Class 5A or Division I to fill a bracket. On the non-select side, there would be enough schools to provide teams for 32- or 16-team brackets.
It didn’t matter that schools with losing records would make the playoffs for the purpose of filling a bracket.
They didn’t care that it will cause a logistical headache to find additional venues to accommodate the number of championship games, if that’s doable at all.
LHSAA executive director Eddie Bonine reminded the committee that participation in sports is not a right.
“It should be about sportsmanship, inclusion instead of exclusion, rather than getting a trophy. The No. 1 reason to participate in sports is because it’s fun,” Bonine said in his preamble to the meeting.
So what will happen when the special session has ended? (A) the alternate plan will pass and all will be well again for the LHSAA (until next January, that is).
(B) The principals will vote to retain the results of the January absurdity that splits the other sports as well.
In which case, (C) State Representative Kirk Talbot of River Ridge will likely move his bill forward to force the LHSAA to kill the dual playoff system or lose its 320 public schools. What would remain of the membership are 74 non-public schools.
(D) Those 74 schools might form their own association and open its membership to public schools who want to leave what’s left of an athletic body controlled by the state Department of Education.
Talbot reminded the executive committee, “You have a huge responsibility. You control every (high) school in the state, including the one my two children attend. I’d like to throw this bill in the trash.” But for now, it’s on hold.