LHSAA split plan still on, but study is commissioned

Updated as of 11:52 a.m.

Advocate file photoLouisiana High School Athletic Association Commissioner Kenny Henderson
Advocate file photoLouisiana High School Athletic Association Commissioner Kenny Henderson

The Louisiana High School Athletic Association’s executive committee deferred its controversial split football playoff plan to a committee for study as it opened its Wednesday morning meeting.

LHSAA President Todd Guice, of Ouachita Parish High, recommended that the plan that is scheduled to go into effect this fall be sent to the school relations committee for additional study. At the same time, questions about the constitutionality of the plan were not directly answered. Though it was not discussed in the meeting, Executive Director Kenny Henderson said the legal opinion the LHSAA received about those constitutional issues was inconclusive.

“We want more information ... we want it to be studied more,” Guice said during a break. “This does not stop it (split proposal). We don’t want to make any decisions without looking at everything thoroughly, and that committee (school relations) is set up to do that. You’ve got select schools and nonselect schools involved.”

Once the school relations committee reports its findings to the executive committee at its June meeting, Guice said he will call a special meeting during the summer for all LHSAA members. At the special meeting, principals would reconsider/amend the plan that is scheduled to divide schools into separate football playoff divisions for select (private, charter, magnet, dual-curriculum and laboratory schools) and nonselect (traditional public schools).

Henderson recommended that the school relations committee be expanded by three to five members and suggested that Winnfield Principal Jane Griffin, a driving force behind the split plan that principals passed in January, be among those asked to serve.

Henderson also suggested that the school relations committee meetings be closed to the public and media so that committee members can speak freely and consider a wide range of alternatives.

A handful of select school representatives attended the meeting and waited until the committee took a break to question Henderson about the constitutional opinion the LHSAA received Tuesday afternoon.

“We did (get the opinion),” Henderson said. “And that’s to be shared with the board (executive committee). There has not been a definitive, clear answer. It depends on how you want to interpret it. With that being said, that’s why we’re going to go back and leave it up to the schools.”

At a meeting last month, select schools pointed out contradictions within the LHSAA’s constitution that do not agree with the select/nonselect plan that calls for five nonselect playoff classes and two select playoff classes.

The LHSAA constitution also states that teams can only play above their enrollment-based class and the select/nonselect plan as approved would require 5A schools to play down to face 4A and 3A schools.

“I do think the fact that they (executive committee) are willing to send it to the school relations committee gives me some cause for optimism,” University High Athletic Director Jill White said. “That committee can look into article 18 and maybe come up with something that works better, maybe some sort of compromise. Hopefully, it will be something the select and nonselect can look to and say, ‘OK, we’re trying to forge an agreement.’ “

White also said that University is asking for a copy of the legal opinion.

Henderson said making the proper decision for all schools should be the goal.

“You want to make the right decision and have more of a buy-in from all the schools involved,” Henderson said, “and not just have the executive committee having to make decisions.

“I think we’ll hit the ground hard with the school relations committee and make sure everybody gets minutes so that they know what is going on. There will be surveys sent out. We have to look at some things that have led us to this point. You have to look at high profile transfers. Those are the things that draw a lot of attention.”