Principals hold key to a common basketball playoff

A large swath of high school basketball coaches want their game to return to a traditional, common playoff format that reunites so-called select and non-select teams.

What the proposal scheduled to be on the LHSAA’s January 2018 business meeting agenda is saying – in the words of a song from the Little Abner” Broadway play offered by the Dogpatch wives – is “Put ’em back the way they wuz.”

But now that it takes a two-thirds vote of LHSAA principals to turn any proposal into law, there’s a better chance of seeing Republican and Democrat lawmakers holding hands and singing “Kumbaya” on the White House lawn than a majority of principals voting the will of their basketball coaches.

But the idea makes more sense than a dual system that places 28 percent (82 Catholic, private or some charter schools) at a distinct disadvantage.

Every school defined as select automatically qualifies for the playoffs, although not one of the five divisions can field 32 teams, while the non-select schools have a full complement in five of the seven classes.

Re-read the first two words of the previous paragraph.

A select school basketball team is an automatic playoff contender even if it has not won a single game. That’s the only way to fill a 32-team, bracket with 12 to 23 teams.

It’s worse for select girls’ basketball teams.

Division V (classes B and C schools by enrollment) has just seven teams, that bypass the first two playoff rounds and advance directly into the quarterfinals.

While the non-select (212 public school) teams are playing basketball, the teams in Division V will be idle for a week, and seven of the nine girls’ teams in Division I will also watch the first two rounds pass by before they play a game.

There are 212 teams in the non-select boys’ tournament; 216 in the girls’ post-season tournament. There are only 16 first-round byes combined in Class C girls’ brackets and four in Class B.

I realize keeping up with the math is a bit tedious, but I’m sure you will agree that 12 byes in one bracket compared to 54 on the other is blatantly unfair.

Coaches step up 

Although a majority of the principals don’t see this as an issue, the Louisiana High School Basketball Officials Association does. The men and women of this organization want to return to a common playoff system that prevailed from 1920 through 2016.

But last January, the principals changed the voting procedure. They ruled that it will take a two-thirds vote to pass an agenda item into law. It used to require a simple 50- percent-plus-1 vote to pass an item.

Once the principals passed the dual playoff system for football in 2013 and added basketball, baseball and softball to the quagmire by a simple majority vote in 2016, they approved the two-thirds vote.

A smooth move. Had that been in place before 2013, the LHSAA would still have a common playoff system in which the best teams meet for a single state championship.

I don’t see a common playoff returning because two-thirds of the high school principals in Louisiana can’t agree on anything that would benefit the minority members subjected to a “Select” label.

The basketball coaches made a noble gesture. It will fall on deaf ears.

They must have expected this because they have an alternate proposal just in case.

The coaches want the LHSAA to hold the Select semifinal and final playoff rounds a week before the non-select championship tournament in Lake Charles.

Starting their playoffs a week before the non-select schools play would eliminate the bye week they have between the last regular-season playing date and the first round of the playoffs.

The  principals are likely to pass this one, provided a venue is available for the championship rounds. The vote is a month away.

‘Glory Days’ finale

Great news from WLAE-TV. The award-winning “Glory Days: The Catholic League of New Orleans,” Part III, is scheduled to debut in August 2018.

The final chapter will cover the first state championship game to be played in the Superdome between Jesuit and St. Augustine in 1978. The film will also cover the dominance of St. Augustine at the end of the 1970s, Brother Martin and Holy Cross and the rise of the Shaw Eagles in the 1980s, the run of Archbishop Rummel in the 1990s and 2000s and the return of the state championship trophy to Jesuit, which reclaimed the Division I crown in 2014, more than 50 years since its last state title.

The story will once again be told through narration, interviews, photographs and archival films.

Ron Brocato can be reached at rbrocato@clarionherald.org  or brx199@aol.com.

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