Is it Splits-ville for the LHSAA?

by John Mikell

[Editor’s Note: In case you haven’t been following the news closely, the Louisiana High School Athletic Association — the governing body for high school sports in the Pelican State — voted at the end of January to expand the select/non-select format that’s been in place for the football playoffs to the additional sports of baseball, basketball and softball beginning next school year. The decision hasn’t sat well with many in the high school sports community, prompting one group of private/parochial school representatives to meet recently and consider forming a competing association. As The Times-Picayune reported on Jan. 29, “The decision’s implications for the [LHSAA]’s future — notably including contracts for championship events and sponsorships, potential governmental intervention or some schools’ potential discussions of splitting from the organization — remain yet to be determined in the coming weeks and months.]

Did anyone who follows such things really think the Louisiana High School Athletic Association would resolve the select/non-select dilemma? Even those who thought not must have been surprised when the LHSAA, the state’s second-worst deliberative body, exacerbated the issue to an existential level in January. Last week a dozen select school representatives met to explore the possibility of organizing their own association. Maybe the days of complaining about the LHSAA will soon be over. More likely Louisiana will end up with two aggravating associations rather than just one.

Make no mistake. A split over the split will not threaten high school football. As long as there are Fridays in Louisiana high school football will thrive. This simply is another example of an organization whose voting members are competitive Type A personalities who make their living as authority figures failing to reach a consensus. As educators they should be ashamed.

After considering several solutions that either reshuffled the same deck of cards or passed the buck to a director who had lost the confidence of many members, they threw up their hands and, in effect, walked over the cliff. Again, shameful.

Want a solution? Here are six:

1. Return all schools to the five classifications before the split with two exceptions.

2. Select teams that reach the playoff semi-finals two years in a row or three out of four years move up a class the following year. The moves will coincide with the regular two-year reclassification periods. Teams, not schools, will be considered. If a football team moves up that school’s other programs may not. Considering the four years prior to the split these are the football teams that would have moved up: Ouachita Christian (three consecutive championship games winning two), Parkview Baptist (four consecutive semis and two championships), Notre Dame (three out of four semis losing to eventual champion Parkview the other year, one championship), John Curtis and Evangel (more on them later).

3. “Elevated” select teams who fail to reach the semis four years in a row may choose to return to their prior classification. This acknowledges that programs can decline as well as rise over time.

4. Select teams can choose to play up in classification to any level but can only move down one classification after failing to reach the semis four years in a row. This allows teams to seek their own competitive level.

5. Because of their outstanding traditions of excellence John Curtis and Evangel start in Class 5A. In 47 seasons John Curtis has won 89.6 percent of its games averaging over 11 wins a season. They played in 17 consecutive championship games before the split. Evangel won four out of six Class 5A state championships before they and Curtis were banished to Class 2A by another bone-headed LHSAA decision. Between 2005 and the split they won two Class 2A championships, Curtis won the other six. Both have proved year after year that size doesn’t matter.

6. Honor the “elevated” teams that play above their class because of past success. Something as simple as uniform insignia or as significant as home field advantage for a playoff game should be considered. Nothing is more inspiring than fair competition and respect for competitors. That’s something high school athletes can teach the LHSAA membership.