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Wednesday, February 12, 2020

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Split stands following debate and vote at LHSAA annual convention

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Split stands following debate and vote at LHSAA annual convention

The split is here to stay … at least for the time being in Louisiana high school athletics.

Several proposals were on the agenda of this week’s Louisiana High School Athletic Association (LHSAA) annual convention meeting agenda that could have revamped and changed the structure of the association’s highly controversial postseason split-up of “select” and “non-select” schools.

In the end, only one proposal gained serious traction — a proposal from North Vermilion principal Tommy Byler, which would have ended the split and brought the association back together with six classes. 

The majority of principals approved Byler’s plan with a 179-165 vote, but the proposal fell far short of the 2/3rds super majority needed to change the association’s constitution, so the proposal failed and the split will remain in tact for the foreseeable future — at least until next winter when the state’s principals and athletic directors meet again.

“I think a lot of people have been working to try and get the association back together and to get our championships back together,” LHSAA Executive Director Eddie Bonine said after the meeting. “We reviewed some proposals today and the principals decided to stay on the same path. I think it’s our job to keep going forward and that’s what we’re going to do. But the same questions remain, and it’s our job to keep working and trying to move forward.”

In Louisiana, there are nine football state champions and 12 champions in basketball and other sports that are split.

The format was adopted in football for the 2013-14 academic year, then was expanded to include other sports in the 2016-17 year.

Motivation for the split was the opinion from several public school coaches and principals that private schools had an advantage in their ability to enroll students from outside of certain boundary zones, which gave them an unfair advantage.

There may be some merit to those opinions.

In 2012 (the last year that the association was together), private schools won four of the five state championships in football and some of the state championship games featured two private school teams against one other.

But since the split has been expanded, basketball postseasons have been awkward at best. Some brackets are traditional sized with 32 teams, but others are small with many byes because of limited numbers of teams.

Early-round games are mostly non-competitive and some teams make the playoffs with lopsided recorded with far more losses than wins.

Because of all of those things, there has been somewhat of a stigma around high school athletics that our state’s championships are “watered down”, and there has been a renewed push for unity within the association.

And that push extends locally.

Several local coaches and athletic directors have expressed their desire for a unified association throughout the past few years.

Central Lafourche football coach Keith Menard said this past fall that he wanted to see things come back together.

Thibodaux boys’ basketball coach and AD Tony Clark agreed, adding that it’s in the best interest of the association for all of its member schools to be unified as one.

But despite the renewal of momentum, Byler’s proposal failed to generate close to the 67 percent it needed, so principals and athletic directors are left scratching their heads about the future — one which will continue to operate under the system in place.