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LHSAA’s select/non-select playoff format expands beyond football

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  • George Becnel
  • Posted:
  • January 29, 2016 - 12:09pm

File photosNot only did the LHSAA vote to continue the select/non-select playoff brackets for football Friday, the organization voted to expand the format to other sports.

Not only will there continue to be nine championship brackets in high school football, starting with the 2016-17 school year, the format will be expanded to include baseball, basketball and softball.

That’s the outcome following a vote by Louisiana High School Athletic Association principals at the organization’s meeting Friday in Baton Rouge.

By a vote of 182-120, the organization decided to not only continue the select/non-select split in football but to expand it to three additional sports. The LHSAA reclassifies every two years with the 2016-17 school year being the second year of the latest reclassification. Despite that, the new format will go into effect next school year instead of waiting for the next reclassification period.

The result seems to leave few from either the select or non-select side of the issue in a particularly good mood.

“It’s a sad state of affairs. It’s not a good day for high school athletics,” said Frank Monica, St. Charles Catholic’s football coach and athletic director. “I think the selfishness prevailed and not a sense of fair play. We made our association where it’s like t-ball and everybody gets a trophy.

“It started spiraling downward three years ago with the select stuff in football and now it’s gotten worse. As a private school representative, we just have to sit there and take our lumps. They’ve basically told us, ‘we don’t want you.’”

“I think it’s terrible it came down to a split. I was hoping that everybody could give a little more time into the thought of this and keep everybody together. It’s pretty much a sad day for the LHSAA and there are a lot of things out there that people have to work through,” said Willie Wise, the athletic director for St. Charles Parish Schools. “As an executive board, we have to go back and look at a few things and hammer some things out and it will be another challenging issue for us to work out.

“The majority rules, whether you like it or not. You accept it and you move on and work things out that need to be worked out.”

After an announcement earlier in January by the LHSAA that it’s vote in 2013 to split the football postseason into select and non-select brackets violated its constitution since the proposal had to come from the Executive Committee rather than the floor, talk began of possible change in the format.

Among the speculation was a return to five classes for football or a possible playoff split into metro and rural divisions.

On Wednesday, the LHSAA executive committee retroactively approved the earlier split vote, allowing for Friday’s action.

“I think it’s what the principals wanted. They voted on it. I think the principals are tired of what’s going on in the schools and they want to get something done,” said Stephen Robicheaux, Destrehan football coach.

Where it will all end is the question that Bill Stubbs, Riverside Academy’s football coach, is grappling with.

“Three years ago, they decided to do this and now they want to take it another step and another step and another step,” said Stubbs. “Where does it stop? What do we do to stop the madness? That’s what it is.

“It’s people that are only looking at their best interests. When I say, ‘their best interests,’ I mean their school. They are not concerned with the association. All their petty little differences are being taken out on kids.”

Friday’s vote has led to speculation that instead of a select/non-select postseason split in four sports, the private schools may break away to form their own association.

“This might be the catalyst that wakes everyone up and we’ve had enough,” said Stubbs.

“I’m hoping they don’t, but that’s up to them,” Wise said.

A split into two organizations still might not actually answer the core problems affecting high school football in Louisiana.

“For 25-30 years, they have been kicking back and forth competitive advantage,” said Dwain Jenkins, St. James football coach and athletic director. “I don’t think the solution that was passed today is the best answer to this problem. I don’t know if there is a best answer to this problem. There were a lot of people in that room tired of hiring lets study it and find something else. I think the sentiment that actually won out was people who have been doing this a lot longer than I have are tired of ‘let’s wait until next year’ and see if somebody can come up with the magic bullet.”

“I understand it,” Jenkins continued. “Many of them feel like their voices are not being heard in the process. I also think this association is a volunteer-based association and nobody is forced to be members of it. If there is another association that’s created that helps other schools feel like they are a part of it, I think that can happen. Louisiana has two associations for a long time with the (Louisiana Independent Schools Association) league and the LHSAA. I’ve heard people talking about it being watered down, and I understand, but by splitting to another association, I don’t see how will remedy that problem.”

One thing that is certain is that an association that at one time spoke of “we” now has a lot of talk of “them” and “us.”

“You can’t survive like that,” said Stubbs. “You can’t operate under those principles.”

George Becnel | .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

George Becnel is an award-winning journalist and has been a sports writer and editor for more than 30 years.