Warren Arceneaux column: LHSAA plan shows progress

Published 1:10 pm Tuesday, September 13, 2022

With last week’s hearing of appeals and release of playoff plans, the LHSAA Executive Committee’s bold reshaping of postseason play for this school year is now complete.

At first glance, it’s a solid plan. Shrinking from 12 championships (seven public/ non-select, five private/ select) is a great start – and one unlikely to have been taken by principals, who have always voted to increase the number of classes/divisions.

Now we are back to a more sensible, or at the very least, a less bloated, number of championships in each sport. The move of so many non-select schools over to the select side has helped create a more even split and lowering the number of teams qualifying for the playoffs should help decrease the number of uncompetitive playoff games and number of teams declining playoff berths in order to save themselves the trouble of making a long trip to play an unwinnable game.

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Locally, not much changed, aside from Lake Charles College Prep and Washington-Marion moving to the select side of the split. Neither move is all that big, as the Blazers football program is still grouped with state powers such as Calvary Baptist, Dunham, Newman, Parkview Baptist, North Caddo, St. Charles and University. The Blazers are still on the cusp of being a top ten program in its new division and a long playoff run is still on the table.

Washington-Marion, most competitive in boys basketball, will be joined by several other good hoops programs in moving to Select Division II, with Peabody, Madison Prep, George Washington Carver, Woodlawn-Shreveport and Booker T. Washington of Shreveport also making the same move.

Iowa’s boys hoops could be one of the big local winners, with the Yellow Jackets now facing a less daunting road to the state tournament with perennial Class 3A participants Peabody and Madison Prep being moved to the select bracket. The Jackets will now have a much better chance of earning a top four seed in the playoffs and being able to play at least two of three pre-tournament games at home.

On the other end of the spectrum, LaGrange caught a bad break remaining in the biggest non-select class. The Gators are at a bigger enrollment disadvantage than the smallest schools in the other three classes. The bracket for girls basketball, LaGrange’s most successful program over the past decade, is loaded. Ellender also moves up from Class 4A, and state powers such as Airline, Parkway, East Ascension, Ponchatoula, West Monroe and Walker all are holdovers from Class 5A. The road to the state tournament for both the Gators and Barbe will be tough.

The bigger Class B schools, including Anacoco, Bell City and Lacassine, will feel hard done by after being placed in Division III with small 2A and big 1A schools. That increases the degree of difficulty for the previous B schools, but the change is more or less taking away the enrollment advantage those schools had over the smaller Bs. Now the big B schools will be competing against more schools with similar enrollments, which should have been the case anyway. Girls hoops powers Fairview and Hathaway remain in Division IV, but will face a more difficult path to titles with some small 1A schools like Arcadia and many former Class B schools joining the mix.

Of course, this set-up is in place for one-year only. And while it appears to address many of the complaints about LHSAA play since the public/private split was put into place, it did not have to be approved by the most powerful people in LHSAA – the school principals. It was the principals who first put the split in place and voted against bringing everyone back. The principals still have the power to change to whatever structure they want at the annual convention in January for the 2023-2024 school year. It’ll be interesting to see if they’re willing to give the Executive Committee’s plan a shot before creating a system of their liking.

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