In the words of Sam Cooke’s ode to the Civil Rights movement, made popular by the Neville Brothers in 1964, “a change is gonna come” in the Louisiana High School Athletic Association.
And it’s visible on the horizon.
Catholic and private school principals have told the LHSAA’s executive committee that, if there are going to be separate playoffs for private and public schools in most (if not all) sports beginning with the 2015-16 school year, they want to control how they will operate as a body within the state association.
These principals have spoken loudly and clearly. And the LHSAA is listening, although it doesn’t know how separate legislative branches within the overall body will function.
LHSAA executive director Kenny Henderson is at the center of the quandary of separation and is looking for a viable, peaceful solution.
Henderson marches to the beat of the association’s finances. He wants a definitive business model from either the principals or the School Relations Committee (SRC) that relates to how revenue will be gained and distributed if there are separate entities within the LHSAA.
While that is being hammered out – and remember, the plan presented by the SRC regarding a split is just an outline – Henderson has another idea of how the LHSAA can increase its football revenue in the 2014 State Farm Prep Classics.
He wants to give the Select schools a prime evening for their championship games – one week before the Non-selects stage their championship games. To do this, he would need to rent the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on the previous Friday.
At the mercy of the NFL
Henderson will discuss the possible availability of the Dome. But it depends on how the National Football League draws up the Saints’ schedule that week. If they play on a Sunday, the Dome would be available on the preceding Friday. If the NFL gives the Saints a Thursday home game, the building will not.
So the LHSAA and the Superdome are in a holding pattern.
The 2013 Prep Classic drew 58,224 spectators. On paper, that seems to be a big number. But if you divide nine games into that figure, the average attendance per game was about 6,470, not enough to fill either stadium at East or West Jefferson.
The Thursday games, which featured three Select divisions, attracted 19,444 spectators, most of whom came to cheer for Archbishop Rummel against Byrd; Archbishop Hannan, which was playing in its first title game; and a strong contingent from Baton Rouge to support University Lab in its game against John Curtis.
Friday night, which featured mostly non-Select schools, was a bust. Just 15,517 fans – enough to fill Pan American Stadium – showed up to see Union Parish vs. Livonia, Kinder vs. Many and Haynesville vs. Mangham. All six schools are located more than 160 miles from New Orleans.
A large Saturday crowd of 23,209 wouldn’t have filled Tad Gormley Stadium but saved the weekend for the LHSAA.
The fact that locals East Jefferson and Edna Karr played for the Class 4A championship was significant, as was the large following from Acadiana, which, incidentally, set a Classic scoring record in beating Parkway, 77-41.
Financial success of the Classic, as it is in all championship sports, will always depend on which schools make the finals and the distance they must travel.
But one thing is a constant: private school followers always travel better than public schools fans because there is more support for these teams.
East Jefferson and Karr drew well because one group had to cross a parish line and the other a bridge. But had this game been played outside the city, travel would not have been economically feasible for many fans.
Too many divisions
The Select schools played for four divisional football championships last year. Division I had just 10 schools. Two – Byrd and Scotlandville – are no longer considered Select because of an attendance zone change by the LHSAA.
Eight schools in Division I are too few (although principals at St. Thomas More and Teurlings Catholic said they would voluntarily play up).
There are 71 Select schools that field football teams. Realistically, there should be no more than three divisions of these schools, with four districts each.
If one divides the schools by their enrollment numbers from top to bottom, football districts that somewhat justify a three-division model could be similar to this:
Division I, District 1: St. Louis Catholic, Loyola, St. Thomas More, Teurlings Catholic, Notre Dame.
Division I, District 2: Catholic (B.R.), University, Parkview Baptist, St. Michael the Archangel, E.D. White, Vandebilt Catholic.
Division I, District 3: St. Charles Catholic, Archbishop Shaw, De La Salle, Lusher, Thomas Jefferson, Ben Franklin.
Division I, District 4: Archbishop Rummel, Brother Martin, Holy Cross, Jesuit, St. Augustine, St. Paul’s.
Division II, District 1: Calvary Baptist, Evangel, Menard, Madison Prep, Ouachita Christian.
Division II, District 2: Catholic (New Iberia), Opelousas Catholic, Westminster, Sacred Heart of Ville Platte, Catholic High of Pointe Coupee), Mentorship Academy.
Division II, District 3: Episcopal (B.R.), Riverside Academy, John Curtis, Dunham, Christian Life, Redemptorist.
Division II, District 4: St. Thomas Aquinas, Northlake Christian, Archbishop Hannan, Pope John Paul II, Newman, Country Day.
Devil in the details
So far, the process was fairly simple.
The question may arise, why is a school placed in a nearby district instead of one in its immediate area?