Arceneaux: LHSAA considering proposals that could change prep sports landscape

By By Warren Arceneaux / American Press

Are the private schools too dominant?

That is the big question facing

principals this week in advance of the annual LHSAA convention, where

two proposals calling

for separate playoff divisions for public and private (or select

and non-select) schools that could reshape the way high school

sports are organized will be considered. This has been an ongoing

debate for more than a decade.

Proposals for splitting the publics and privates were voted down twice, most recently in 2004. Last year, a proposal calling

for the split was tabled until this year. That proposal, authored by former South Beauregard principal Marlin Ramsey, will

be heard this year and would affect most sports beginning in the 2015-16 school year.

A new proposal would split schools only for football playoffs and would go into effect next school year.

So far, only one major change has taken

place in the long history of the debate — prohibiting schools from

“playing up,” in

a class higher than its enrollment level. Even that change was

somewhat mitigated when principals voted to allow schools to

move up one class beginning next year.

Class 2A powers John Curtis and Evangel

are choosing to move up to 3A for the next two school years. Which, of

course, makes

the other 3A schools the big losers and the other 2A schools the

big winners of this round of classification, if you define

winning and losing by the odds of winning a state championship.

Or, at least, not having to face John Curtis or Evangel to

do so.

The inordinate number of championships being won by private schools is the root cause of this seemingly never-ending private

versus public debate and string of proposals.

At the most recent Superdome Prep

Classic, seven of the 10 participants — and four of the five champions —

were private schools.

Either Curtis or Evangel won the 2A championship in each of the

six years they have both been in the division, and neither

lost a playoff game during that span to anyone but the other. In

four of the six years, the playoff meeting came in the championship

game. In the other two seasons, it came in the semifinals.

The private school dominance was apparent in other sports as well. In the 2011-12 school year, private schools won the majority

of state championships in girls basketball, baseball and softball. In boys basketball, two private schools won titles and

two more champions — Peabody and Scotlandville — may be classified as “select” schools if such a designation is made. Last

fall, private schools swept all five volleyball state championships.

If either of the two far-reaching

proposals considered this week passes, private schools would only play

each other in the

playoffs in new “classes” called Division I (for private/select

admission schools in classes 3A-5A) and Division II (private

schools in classes 1-2A), while the public schools would play each

other in Classes 1A-5A.

Among the issues to be resolved would be how to define “select” schools, a difficult task with dual-curriculum schools such

as Peabody, Scotlandville and Washington-Marion.

Another issue this would cause would be the format for playoffs for Divisions I and II. In Division II, there may be as few

as 28 teams. Classes 1A-3A would have about 48 non-select schools each after removing the select schools. Keeping 32-team

brackets for playoffs would be implausible.

The only “problem” approving a split would solve is giving public schools an easier road to state championships by diluting

the competition.

That issue is important enough to some people for these proposals to keep coming up, but as of yet has not become such a big

deal that the majority of principals have been willing to take the drastic step of approving a private/public split.

This time around, the principals will have the option of maintaining the status quo, making a change only for football, or

revamping the majority of sports played in the state.

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Warren Arceneaux covers high school athletics. Email him at warceneaux@americanpress.com