Select/nonselect issue not first time prep scene has changed

By Robin Fambrough

Advocate sportswriter

People love to talk about the life lessons learned through sports. And I should know, because I’m one of those people.

There are times when what happens in life is bigger than sports. The 9/11 tragedy and Hurricane Katrina are contemporary examples.

Over the past two months, much has been written about the Louisiana High School Athletic Association and its vote to split its football playoffs based on select/nonselect school status.

There was another turning point in high school sports. It came in the late 1960s and early 1970s when Louisiana’s schools were integrated.

I recently got a glimpse of what those days were like when my husband obtained a number of old newspapers. Included in that group was The Advocate’s preseason football section for 1970.

It’s a great time capsule that details the coaches, players and schools from that era. Some of the schools no longer exist.

The accomplishments of the players and teams are all memories now.

The section, published Tuesday, Sept. 1, 1970, was dedicated to legendary Istrouma High School football coach James “Big Fuzz” Brown, who coached from 1950-67, who won eight state titles, 11 district titles and compiled a 196-40-11 record with the Indians. The state champions that year were Elton in 1A, Haynesville in 2A, Hammond in 3A and West Jefferson in 4A.

There were integration-related changes taking place and others brewing. There were two athletic associations, one for white high schools and the other black high schools.

Check out this entry for Scotlandville.

“In its first season in Louisiana High School Athletic Association circles, Scotlandville, a 1969 state champion, will be rebuilding. A year ago, the Hornets’ last in the Louisiana Interscholastic Athletic and Literary Organization, Scotlandville won the LIALO’s Triple-A state championship with an 11-1-1 record.”

Here’s an entry for Kentwood that reflected the signs of the times.

KENTWOOD — Whatever one thinks of Coach John Cornett, you can’t say he avoids high risk situations. After launching into a beef cattle operation earlier this year in Tangipahoa Parish, he took on the challenge of building a winning football team on the heels of a mass exodus of students from Kentwood High to the area’s private school.

The entire starting backfield from the 1969 state champions would have been back this season.”

Then there are entries for Brusly and Livonia, which canceled their 1969 seasons in the wake of school integration.

BRUSLY — Prospects of fielding a team this year are enough to make Coach (Buddy) Charleville look optimistic at Brusly. Charleville’s 1969 schedule was cancelled when integration and attendance problems led to the dropping of the game in several schools in the district. … Only two lettermen return from the 1968 team.”

LIVONIA — While all’s not quite quiet on the Western front around Pointe Coupee Parish due to school court decisions, Coach Glen Matherne is grooming his Livonia Wildcats for the second straight year with hopes of getting in a regular season slate. The ’Cats were on the sideline last year as many of the river area schools around Baton Rouge sat out the 1969 campaign.”

And he’s another interesting one for Shady Grove, a school no longer in existence.

ROSEDALE — Fans around here won’t know until the foot meets the ball whether a winning combination will result from the joining of Shady Grove and T.A. Levy gridders under the Shady Grove banner this fall. … Since Shady Grove passed up last season due to school mixing problems, the number of lettermen returning, those departed and other (sic) in between are subject to whatever value one cares to put on such statistics.”

Our situation in 2013 has nothing to do with racial equality. Depending on how the ongoing battle over the playoff split ends up, there could be multiple associations once again.

So is it possible that 10 or 20 years from now people will recall the times when public and private schools were part of the same association? It is food for thought.

Request denied

The LHSAA has denied University High’s request for a copy of the independent legal opinion on the constitutionality of the split proposal.

An LHSAA attorney noted that the opinion was addressed to the LHSAA’s executive committee, not the schools. Select schools, including University, asked for the outside opinion during a February meeting with the executive committee.

University High Superintendent Wade Smith has submitted a letter of response that questions the LHSAA’s decision not to issue the ruling and calls for LHSAA Executive Director Kenny Henderson to intervene.