The wall of resistance that stands between public school principals and common sense is more solid than the wall of Jericho.
It’s quite obvious that this wall is unscalable, as reiterated at the Jan. 24-26 Louisiana High School Athletic Association’s convention in Baton Rouge.
Proposals to reunite public (non-select) and private (select) schools into common playoffs in the sports of basketball, baseball and softball never stood a chance of passing.
The voting was not close. The basketball reunification proposal failed by a vote of 205-120, even though the state’s high school basketball coaches’ association asked their principals for it.
The members also denied the proposals for common playoffs in baseball, by a 203-98 vote, and in softball, by 188-91.
All three required a simple majority as bylaws and not constitutional items, which require a two-thirds vote to make changes.
Another proposal, whichdid require a 66.7 percent majority to change, would have classified football schools separately in divisions had it passed. It did draw 60 percent of the votes, but fell short of the required two-thirds.
Public school principals flexed their majority muscle and made it known that they alone will determine the destiny of the LHSAA.
There are voices once again calling for Catholic and private schools to withdraw from the LHSAA “dumpster fire” (my words, not executive director Eddie Bonine’s, this time).
Certainly, a few of these principals feel it is time to have that conversation. But the cold fact is that there are not enough of them willing to do so and no viable plan in place to make an exodus work.
A sensible playoff format
Although non-select and select schools will not meet for a common state championship, their championship tournaments will not take place at the same venues beginning with the 2018-19 school year. That’s a positive.
Boys’ and girls’ basketball teams in all divisions will compete for championship honors one week prior to the non-select schools’ championship tournament.
The select brackets will consist of 16 (not 32) teams in order to reduce the number of byes select schools must endure to coincide with the non-select tournament.
In most divisions there aren’t enough teams to fill 32-team brackets. The 16-team format will reduce the number of schools with losing records making the playoffs.
Seven Division III boys’ teams and six Division IV teams will not qualify for the playoffs. In the select girls’ brackets, the lower five seeds in Division III and IV will not make the cut.
Currently, the LHSAA has a contract with Burton Coliseum in Lake Charles to host the boys’ tournment through 2019.
The girls’ tournament will be held in Alexandria’s Rapides Coliseum through 2019.
Also of significance, schools with successful softball programs will have an additional expense unless they live within communting distance of Sulphur for the state tournament.
Principals approved a proposal to extend the tournament a third day to prevent teams from playing more than one game per day.
Under the prevailing format, teams play a quarterfinal-round game on a Friday. The winning teams play a semifinal-round game on a Saturday morning and the championship games take place on Saturday evening.
If the LHSAA begins the tournament on a Thursday, that will cost these athletes an extra day out of school. It is doubtful the tournament will end on a Sunday, unless inclement weather forces postponement of one of the earlier days.
Principals of schools with wrestling programs voted by a demonstrative margin of 58-11 to form an advisory committee that will share in the process to select future sites for the state tournament.
When the Pontchartrain Center could no longer accommodate the large crowd wrestling draws for the tournament, the LHSAA moved it to its present arena, CenturyLink Center in Bossier City.
The majority of schools with wrestling programs are located south of Alexandria along the Interstate-10 corridor.
Unfortunately, Bossier City is 326 miles from New Orleans, where most of the wrestling schools are located, 251 miles from Baton Rouge and 212 miles from Lafayette.
And only one school in Bossier City has a wrestling program – Airline High.
By the overwhelming passage of this proposal, wrestling may be returned to a part of the state where the sport is popular.
With a little help from assistant director Keith Alexander, Dr. Donald Thornton’s proposal to allow opposing baseball coaches to select umpires for all playoff games failed.
Alexander, who oversees game officials for all LHSAA sports, assigns officials throughout the playoffs and championship tournaments.
Thornton, the principal at Lafayette High, said that LHSAA schools save money when two schools from the same region can use local officials. He pointed out it would also eliminate or reduce travel expenses, and would lessen Alexander’s workload, all valid points.
But Alexander told the members,” while it would make my workload easier, it’s not the best thing for the schools because the officials I assign to playoff games are the best from every officials’ association in the state. If the coaches choose, they may not be getting the best crews available.
That brought joy to Shane Rigdon, the assignment secretary for the Crescent City Umpires Association, who appealed to baseball coaches to ask their principals to vote against the proposal.
Rigdon told the coaches, “I am very familiar with this mutual-consent system. It is basically two coaches jockeying for position against each other by trying to hand pick their favorite umpires.
“When the assignment secretary notifies the home coach that the majority of the specified umpires are not available, it creates problems,” he wrote.
The principals of a grossly divided association finally found something they could agree upon in a bipartisan manner that makes sense.
Ron Brocato can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.