LHSAA combines 3A and 4A for football playoffs

  If having to compete in a football division with 2012 championship finalists John Curtis and Evangel was bad enough for St. Charles Catholic and De La Salle, the situation worsened for the two local Catholic schools on Thursday.
    The Louisiana High School Athletic Association’s executive committee combined classes 3A and 4A into one common division, adding five more schools to the mix.

    Acting on a proposal by Central Catholic of Morgan City principal Victor Bonnaffee, the committee decided not to combine schools in classes 5A and 4A, as recommended by the School Relations Committee chairman Michael Boyer of Teurlings Catholic because of the disparity in enrollment numbers between schools in those classes.
    Bonnaffee pointed out that the difference in the enrollment figures from the smallest school in Class 4A (Loyola Prep, a 3A school whose principal chose to play up in class) is 455 students. If it is combined in a division with the largest schools in Class 5A (Jesuit and Byrd High, which have more than 2,200 students), there is a greater gap than combining schools in classes 4A and 3A. That difference is 1,158 students to just 496 students for schools in 4A and 3A.
    After more than an hour of deliberation, at which time LHSAA executive director Kenny Henderson and members of the executive committee attempted to reach principals of select schools in Class 3A for their input, the committee members approved Bonnaffee’s proposal.
    Both select and non-select schools will compete in their normal districts during the regular season and then will be separated for the playoffs into five classes for non-select schools and four divisions for select schools.
    After Henderson removed Warren Easton and Edna Karr from the small list of select schools in Class 4A and placed them with the non-select schools, the class was left with just five schools to compete for championship honors in football. Although Ben Franklin falls into that class, it does not participate for championship honors.
    The new distribution of select schools eligible for the football playoffs gives Division I (Class 5A) 10 schools. By combining classes 4A and 3A, Division II will have 16 schools. They include St. Thomas More, Vandebilt Catholic, St. Michael, Teurlings Catholic and Loyola Prep from Class 4A with E.D. White, St. Louis, Parkview Baptist, Lusher Charter, Thomas Jefferson, De La Salle, Notre Dame, St. Charles Catholic, University Lab, Evangel and John Curtis of Class 3A.
    All will compete for select school championship honors in the state playoffs.
    Eleven of the select school principals from Class 3A contacted agreed with the consolidation of the two classes. Three – Notre Dame, De La Salle and E.D. White’s principals – were not in favor of the proposal. Two could not be reached. Every principal from the 4A schools involved agreed to the consolidation.
    Division III will have 15 select schools currently classified as 2A and Division IV will consist of 30 select schools from Class 1A.
    Division I will consist of Brother Martin, Archbishop Rummel, Archbishop Shaw, Holy Cross, Jesuit, St. Augustine, St. Paul’s, Scotlandville, Byrd and Catholic of Baton Rouge.
    Division III, in which Pope John Paul II and Archbishop Hannan will compete, also includes Newman, Haynes Academy, Riverside Academy, Northlake Christian, Calvary Baptist, Redemptorist, Opelousas Catholic, Westminster, Dunham, Menard, Episcopal of Baton Rouge, Catholic of New Iberia and St. Thomas Aquinas.
    Henderson advised the committee that the No. 1 problem with combining two classes is the power point distribution.
    “If a school in Class 3A plays an opponent in Class 5A it gets four power points. But schools in 4A can only get two power points for playing up,” he said. “Either none of the schools in the combined division should get power points for playing up or the coaches can let them have power points, then decide on the final ranking of the schools for the playoffs. There are no problems with power points for the other three divisions.”
    The four-division concept approved is for the 2012 football playoffs only. All other sports will continue to be conducted in five classes or divisions, depending on the sport, and schools deemed select and non-select for football will remain in common classes.
    Henderson said the championship games in the Mercedes Benz Superdome will probably be played on a Thursday, Friday and Saturday with three games each day to accommodate nine championship games.
    Boyer said the consolidation of schools in divisions enables the LHSAA to hold 16-team playoffs in every division but Division I, which has just 10 members, eight of which are Catholic schools. All will be eligible for the playoffs. The bracket will be adjusted to account for byes. One of the 15 Division III teams will draw a first round bye.
    The LHSAA is the main beneficiary of the separation of select and non-select schools. It will now receive 10 percent of revenue from ticket sales for nine divisions and classes of playoff games instead of five.
    The executive committee approved all 11 recommendations offered by Boyer’s School Relations Committee to be placed on the general meeting agenda of January 2014, including allowing a school to play up in any higher classification it desires and a plan to consider some type of playoff success factor.
    But expect some adverse changes in January, Boyer said.
    “Having separate divisions for football is just the beginning. I believe the principals are going to vote to separate the schools in all sports,” Boyer said. “Our committee just tried to make the best of a bad situation.”
    The Teurlings Catholic principal indicated that he will make a formal proposal to do away with separate playoffs to return the LHSAA to its normalcy. He also warned that there could be ramifications in the form of litigation to seek an injunction against the separation of LHSAA public and non-public schools.
Westward movement
    While the LHSAA has no immediate plans to move its championship football games out of the Mercedes Benz Superdome, the Lake Charles area has become the prep sports capital of Louisiana.
    For the past 17 years Sulphur’s Frasch Park has been the home of the “Fast Pitch 56” softball tournament. That city has added the state baseball tournament for 2014 and 2015.
    As it is in softball, all seven classes will hold their semifinal and championship rounds of baseball in Sulphur’s McMurry Park on three all-weather turf fields.
    Tulane University, which has hosted the Class 5A tournament the past two years, was unable to bid to retain it. The only other suitor was Southern University, which submitted a proposal to host just the classes 3A and 2A tournaments, making Sulphur a shoo-in for the total package.
    Sulphur’s Parks and Recreation Department sweetened the offer by providing financial aid to the competing schools for hotel expenses and one free meal per day to the teams, provided by local restaurant sponsors.
    The McMurry complex consists of three lighted fields for flexible scheduling and 10 additional fields to conduct practices for pre-game warm-up activities. Sulphur will also provide ticket gates, press areas, souvenir and concession stands and security.
    Sulphur officials hope the baseball tournament will be an additional boon to the Lake Area economy, feeling that if the baseball tournament is as successful as the softball championships have been, Sulphur will be its permanent home.
    Lake Charles also landed a big prize when the LHSAA executive committee awarded both the boys’ and girls’ Top 28 basketball tournaments to be played at Burton Coliseum.
    Lake Charles was awarded the boys' games over Shreveport-Bossier’s CenturyLink Center and Louisiana Tech’s Thomas Assembly Center, which have greater seating capacities.
    Burton Coliseum, currently under renovation, won the bid over Monroe-West Monroe’s proposal to host the games at Louisiana-Monroe’s Fant-Ewing Coliseum, and a proposal submitted by the Hammond Steering Committee to have the games on their Southeastern Louisiana campus. Both arenas have hosted the girls’ tournaments in the past.
    Lake Charles won out when it offered the LHSAA an “award” of $20,000 if that city would get the bid for both tournaments. The favorable vote was 11-8.
    City Park will continue to host the state soccer championships at Tad Gormley Stadium for the next two years, getting the bid over Shreveport-Bossier. And Louisiana-Lafayette won the bid for the tennis championships over Monroe-West Monroe and the University of New Orleans courts, submitted by coaches Mike Barnes of the Academy of the Sacred Heart and Mike McGuire of Country Day.
     The LHSAA will conclude its summer meeting on Friday by approving three new schools for membership: Martin Luther King Jr. Charter School in New Orleans, Mentorship Academy in Baton Rouge and Family Christian in Winnsboro.
     The committee will also acknowledge that Xavier Preparatory School in New Orleans, which was scheduled to close at the end of the 2012-13 school year, will remain open and a member with the name St. Katharine Drexel Preparatory High School.
     Ron Brocato can be reached at rbrocato@clarionherald.org.

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