Now that principals of the Louisiana High School Athletic Association have opened the door for its member schools below the Class 5A level to compete one classification higher than that dictated by their student enrollments, the opportunity exists for a Catholic League reunion in 2013.
The passage of a proposal co-authored by Jesuit principal Michael Giambelluca and his cohort from Zachary High, Wes Watts, by a vote of 158-125, will enable Holy Cross and St. Augustine to reapply to join their former traditional rivals Archbishop Rummel, Brother Martin and Jesuit in what was known throughout the state as “The Catholic League of New Orleans.” And the principals of the two schools have stated emphatically that they will.
But the approval to “play up” by the LHSAA, made on Jan. 27 at the body’s annual meeting, is just the key to the door to a reuniting of the fabled league. LHSAA Executive Director Kenny Henderson holds that key. He just needs to turn it in the lock.
But Henderson was non-committal to the question I posed to him at the general assembly’s conclusion whether he would now revive the Catholic League. But he wasn’t opposed to doing so, either.
He told me that he doesn’t consider districts as either Catholic or public. “I base it on how many and which schools are (geographically) close together,” he said.
If that’s the case, and there are no Orleans Parish schools whose principals choose to go from Class 4A to 5A, such as McDonogh 35, O. Perry Walker and Edna Karr, then the only New Orleans schools in the highest class will be Catholic schools.
The exception is Chalmette, which I believe would choose to continue to be in a district with the Catholics rather than to leap Orleans Parish to join Jefferson Parish schools. Chalmette is currently in a district with three Catholic schools and two Jefferson Parish public schools.
The only former Catholic League member that has not consented to move up from Class 4A is Archbishop Shaw, which had been a Catholic League member for 41 years.
We’ll know in November
When schools turn in their enrollment projections in October for the 2013-14 and 2014-15 school years, then declare if they want to play up one class, Henderson will put them together in districts. This is expected to occur in November.
Watts co-authored Giambelluca’s third attempt at ending the LHSAA’s six-year ban on schools playing in higher classifications because, “I believe in traditional geographic rivalries,” he said. “There are some schools which are having to travel so much because of the class they’re having to play in. This will help those schools, too.”
Most public school principals from the New Orleans area raised their “yea” paddles, including those from Jefferson Parish, who may be able to re-form a single parish district should any combination of East Jefferson, Riverdale and Helen Cox choose to play up.
For this and next year, half the Jefferson publics are in a district with Rummel, Martin and Jesuit, and the other half are in a league with East St. John, Hahnville and Destrehan. The influx of those schools makes it difficult for the parish publics to be successful in athletics.
Destrehan head football coach Steve Robichaux said the Bayou Parish schools (from the Houma-Thibodaux area) would welcome the three River Parish members to rejoin their 5A district.
“They would?” I asked him. “Weren’t they the ones that wanted you out the last time the three of you were in?”
“Yes, but they want to get rid of Westgate and New Iberia,” he said. Those schools left the Lafayette area districts to fill the Houma-Thibodaux district last year.
Giambelluca’s proposal did not sail through the vote easily. South Beauregard principal Marlin Ramsey attempted to divide schools for the playoffs into separate groups of traditional public schools and “select” schools, which would include Catholic, private, magnet, dual curriculum, charter and lab schools. Ramsey’s proposal would have divided the LHSAA’s 387 schools into four classifications and then sub-divide schools into select and non-select groups for the playoffs. There would have been four classes for non-select schools and two for select schools in the playoffs.
Fortunately, it was tabled.
The second attempt to derail the playing-up proposal came from Winnfield principal Jane Griffin, who wanted to amend the play-up proposal to allow a school to play up in whichever class it chooses. This effort to derail the Giambelluca-Watts proposal was also tabled.
Don’t be surprised if these attempts to continue the LHSAA public school principals’ suppression of their non-public partners resurface prior to the October deadline when the new projected attendance figures are submitted.
So, pending a revisit of the two tabled motions, the Catholic League will have to wait awhile to find out its fate.
Ron Brocato can be reached at email@example.com.