Select schools have playoff pitfalls to overcome

By Ron Brocato, Clarion Herald Sports

Following the theme of the 1977 Fleetwood Mac hit song, “Go Your Own Way,” principals of so-called Select schools chose to do just that in four sports beginning with the 2019 high school football post-season. Basketball (boys and girls), baseball and softball are the other sports these schools will manage during their respective playoffs. 

A majority of Louisiana High School Athletic Association’s member principals gave them their blessing to embark on the uncharted territories of selecting divisional championship playoff sites and conducting their four division title games.

The rationale is that Select schools, whose fan, parental and student support outperforms those of most non-Select (or public) schools, will reap the financial rewards of gate receipts by determining their own championship venues. At least 60% – or 44-of-73 – of Select school principals voted to pull the trigger on separate football playoffs that they will manage. The numbers are slightly higher in the other split sports.

It may turn out that they are right and will share a greater revenue than what they receive in a state tournament alongside of the non-Select schools. But LHSAA executive director Eddie Bonine wonders if they are aware of the logistical headaches they have perpetrated on themselves. 

He told these principals that the LHSAA’s only responsibilities to them once they wander off are to provide championship (Baden) game balls, trophies for first-and second-place teams and most valuable player awards in each sport. 

Keeping in mind that the newly formed Louisiana Select Association (LSA) is not a shadow organization under protection of the LHSAA’s umbrella – and that Bonine doesn’t recognize it as such – its mandate is solely to determine how it wants to set up championship tournaments for non-public schools under LHSAA guidelines. 

Logistical obstacle course

But there are potential pitfalls the LSA must overcome. And, the LHSAA’s concerns are justified, to my way of thinking.

The Select schools may be ending their seasons earlier their non-Select counterparts, which will make it incumbent on the district chairpersons to work out a schedule that accommodates all schools regardless of class or division. They will have to determine who to send results to when they confirm the district finishes.

It is quite possible that, because there are fewer Select schools, they will be in their playoffs while the regular seasons have not ended for the non-Selects.

Although the LHSAA will still be responsible for selecting and assigning game officials, the home schools will be responsible for coordinating officials’ lodging and meals. They cannot select their own officials based on convenience of location.

The LHSAA selects crews that have worked together throughout the regular season. They must be neutral and come from all parts of the state.

Additionally, if the regular season is still in progress when the Select schools begin their playoffs, the best officials may not be available to them.

And what about the official LHSAA vendors, which have contractual agreements with the association to provide photographic, wearing apparel and beverage services at championship events? If Select school title events are scattered in stadiums and arenas throughout the state, it may be physically impractical to accommodate these schools as they do at one common venue. 

Will schools be allowed to use their own photographers or make their own T-shirts and sell them at title games? I doubt that the LHSAA will allow this to happen.

Another question that needs to be answered is can LSA schools solicit their own sponsors and, if so, who  would share the revenue? The title sponsor for all state championships is the Allstate Sugar Bowl, which is keeping a watchful and critical eye on how this plays out. 

More questions abound

How will ticket sales be tracked and validated, keeping in mind that the LHSAA receives 10% of post-season playoffs and championship gates? Will ticket prices be in line with the cost of tickets at recognized LHSAA events?

Will the venues for Select championship games meet LHSAA guidelines? Football venues such as Tulane’s Yulman Stadium, Tad Gormley and Southeastern Louisiana’s field have been mentioned. The Lafayette Cajun Dome, Southeastern and the smaller Alario Center are said to have shown interest.

In the case of all playoff sports, the higher seed determines the site of games leading to the championship tournaments. And under the LSA’s plan for Select-school playoffs, the principals have agreed to waive their home-field advantage in an effort to acquire the largest and most practical stadiums and arenas available to accommodate the finalists.

There is a rising wave of support by a growing number of LHSAA principals from, yes, Select and non-Select schools to end split playoffs. Bonine’s charge from the LHSAA executive committee is to find a way to make this happen. And the early returns from the executive director’s survey of every interested party (principals, athletic directors, coaches and student athletes) indicate all factions of the association may be ready to return to a state of normalcy that had existed from 1920 to 2013, when this dual playoff mess was created by the majority of public school principals.

But for now, the LSA must come to terms with LHSAA championship requirements. Knowing people elected to the group’s own executive committee, I’m confident that the Select tournaments will be handled in a thoughtful and responsible manner.

Sweet honorees

Men and women from schools in the Archdiocese of New Orleans were honored at the Aug. 10 Allstate Sugar Bowl Greater New Orleans Sports Hall of Fame inductions. Former Archbishop Rummel head basketball coach Jim Robarts and Holy Cross’ great tight end Billy Truax were among the Hall of Fame inductees.

But the awards kept coming as the honorees received their individual honors. Mount Carmel’s Ellie Holzman was named the female athlete of the year, and coaches Wayne Stein (St. Charles Catholic) and April Hagadone (Mount Carmel) were outstanding boys’ and girls’ coaches. St. Scholastica’s soccer team received an outstanding team award.

Athlete of the Month honors went to Elijah Morgan (December 2018) and Perry Ganci (February 2019) of Jesuit; Alex Davis (March 2019) of Holy Cross; and Mary Nusloch (May 2019) of the Academy of the Sacred Heart.

Ron Brocato can be reached at rbrocato@clarionherald.org.

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