Separate playoffs a sad case in teaching defeatism

brocato    It took 13 years for the Louisiana High School Athletic Association to allow private and Catholic schools to enter a fiefdom whose membership was previously for public schools only.
    The year was 1929 – a time when just a handful of “non-public” schools had athletic teams and were in the extreme minority.
    Over the decades, more and more faith-based and non-denominational private schools came into being. They grew in popularity with parents who could afford to trade tuition dollars for a quality educational and sound social environment.
    Those qualities spilled onto the athletic fields and into gymnasiums, and over the decades, parity became part of the LHSAA championships.
    When it did, public school principals yelled, “This is foul play. These private schools are taking our children. They are taking them from the playgrounds. They are paying their coaches more money, giving students scholarships.”
    Forgetting that school children belong to their parents and not to public education,  public school principals, on more than a handful of occasions, have devised plans to suppress their private, parochial and now charter-school partners.
    They tried to throw them out of the association but had no legal grounds to do so because every member of the LHSAA is a stockholder and has ownership status.
    Because just two of the more than 400 schools that comprise the LHSAA were experiencing success every year on the football field, they forced all schools to compete in a class dictated by their enrollment figures. These schools, John Curtis and Evangel Christian, both Class 2A, were even forced to compete in higher classes at one time in an effort to “cut them down to size.”
    When the two started beating the larger schools, the principals shoved them back down into the second-lowest football class in the LHSAA.
    Frustrated by their continued success, one principal came up with a new scheme – I mean, solution – which will be up for vote at the Jan. 23-25 annual convention.
    Marlin Ramsey of South Beauregard wants to divide schools for playoffs into separate groups of traditional public schools and “select” schools, which would include Catholic, private, magnet, dual-curriculum, charter and lab schools.
    Ramsey proposes that the “traditional” schools compete for state championships in three playoff classifications,  while his “select” schools compete in just two playoff classes.
    I could be wrong, but I am convinced this ridiculous proposal will pass, and I base this conviction on the fact that all five state football championships two weeks ago were won by non-public schools for the first time  in 85 years of championship competition.
A lesson in mediocrity
    When the majority of principals pass this proposal, they will be telling their student athletes, “It is all right to be second best. You can be a state champion without beating the best.”
    This defeatist attitude is the wrong lesson for intelligent educators to teach their students. This country was founded by leaders determined to make this a union of strength, with a commitment to overcoming obstacles and facing adversity.
    John Curtis takes pride in having won 25 state championships since 1975 while competing in three classes. Evangel has won 11 in four classes. For this, many principals have convinced themselves the two are not playing by the rules (although they have yet to prove otherwise).
    History shows that Haynesville has won 14 state championships; Tallulah, 13; Neville, 10; West Monroe, eight (with six runners-up trophies); and Lutcher, six. All are “traditional” public schools.
    History also shows that since the state football championship games have been played in New Orleans beginning in 1981, public schools have won more titles in four of the five classes.
    ➤ In Class 5A, which began in 1991, public schools have won 17 titles to five for non-publics. Evangel won four, and Archbishop Rummel was the 2012 champion.
    ➤ In Class 4A, the publics lead, 21-11. Curtis won eight of the 11.
    ➤ In Class 2A, public schools hold a 16-6 advantage.
    ➤ In Class 1A, it’s 15-13, advantage publics.
    ➤ Class 3A is the only one of the five in which non-public schools have a 17-15 advantage.
    So what’s the issue here? What I see is parity.
    The case may be made that for the past five years, non-public schools have dominated the football playoffs.
    True in part. Curtis and Evangel have ruled Class 2A. Curtis and Evangel have each won two (playing against each other). The other went to Curtis in 2011 over Winnfield.
    Of the 10 schools participating in the Class 3A championship games, seven have been non-public schools, and they have won four of the five titles in that class.
    But the publics have been  dominant in Class 5A, having sent eight teams to the finals against two non-publics and having won four of five titles.
    The publics also lead Class 4A, 6-4 in finalists and 4-1 in titles. And the publics have a 6-4 advantage in schools making the Class 1A finals and a 3-2 championship advantage.
    The tally of all five classes for the past five years gives a very slight edge to non-public schools over public schools: 26-24 in making the finals and 13-12 in winning the state title.
    Once again, parity.
    There has been discussion that the proposal may be amended to include football only. If that’s the case, principals of schools in classes B and C – and others which do not have football programs – should not have a vote on an issue that doesn’t pertain to them. There hasn’t been a football game played in Class B since 1969, and Class C has never played football because those enrollments number between 10 and 93 students. Their vote would skew the outcome.
    This proposal just further polarizes an association that is on sound administrative footing.    Every member has equal rights and should not be punished for success by a majority of peers who would settle to win  a secondary championship for the purpose of vindictive self-gratification.   
    Ron Brocato can be reached at rbrocato@clarionherald.org.

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