Select or non-select battle lines being drawn

By Robin Fambrough

Advocate sportswriter

For months, there have been whispers and speculation about what could happen at the Louisiana High School Athletic Association’s next annual convention.

Now that the LHSAA’s executive committee has released the agenda for next month’s convention lines are being drawn. Two proposals would divide member schools into separate divisions for the playoffs based on their select or non-select status. One would divide schools in all sports. The other would divide schools for the football playoffs only.

I’m sure last weekend’s football finals added fuel to the fire. All five LHSAA titles were won by teams that would fall in the select category.

However, some of those lines being drawn are tenuous ones based on partial facts available and that’s just one of the reasons to proceed with caution.

First of all, I’m going to call this what it is — another attempt to split the LHSAA. Two previous attempts to divide the LHSAA into separate divisions for public and private failed.

Advocates of these proposals say it’s not a split, calling it more of a subdivision. Schools would continue to play each other in the regular season and then break off for separate championship events.

Sure, the definitions sound simple enough. A non-select school is a traditional public school that draws all students from a specific attendance zone.

Select schools are those that can limit their enrollment by charging tuition like private and laboratory schools do or by offering special curriculums like magnet schools and charter schools do. Select schools also are not limited to one attendance zone.

Part of the problem will be determining where some schools fall. One executive committee member pointed out that not all charter schools select or limit their enrollment and have open enrollment like traditional public schools.

Schools with dual curriculums also would fall in the select category. What course offering would push some schools into the select category and leave others as non-select? And who would decide that?

There are other potential issues, such as questions about safety if select schools are divided two divisions for football, forcing schools with significant differences in enrollment to play each other.

I understand the efforts of the authors of these proposals. They’re all trying to do what they think is best for their schools, which are traditional public schools. In reality, what they’ve created are have your cake and eat it too proposals.

Through these proposals, they’re telling the select schools, many of whom are private schools, we want to play you, just not for championship honors. In other words, let’s make money at the gate.

Should either of these proposals pass, there’s no guarantee that the private schools, and perhaps some of the other select schools, will buy into the rationale.

There’s no guarantee that at least some select schools won’t opt to leave the LHSAA to form their own association or multiple associations. That move could cripple the LHSAA competitively and financially.

Expanding the number of championships isn’t the best answer, either. The more championships you have, the more competition gets watered down. What will the value of a championship be when there’s an obvious difference in the performance level, regardless of the sport?

Multiple associations could also water down everything from competition, to media exposure and sponsorship money.

Other questions will crop up. People will want to know who the best team or the real champion is.

And what if one school, say like a West Monroe in football or a Scotlandville in boys basketball, dominates the largest non-select class for a decade. Will principals propose another change?

Some other states already have separate divisions and championships for public and private schools. Is it the right thing for Louisiana?

There are no easy answers and plenty of questions to be resolved.