LHSAA panel says gap bridged at meeting

Though possible state legislative action looms, several members of the Louisiana High School Athletic Association’s school relations committee said they hope they have started to bridge the gap between schools.

The committee did not recommend putting the plan for this fall’s split football playoff plan on hold as some had hoped. But the 15-member group of public and private school administrators said their meeting can make a difference.

“The most important thing, to me, is to keep the association together,” Zachary Principal Wes Watts said. “Everybody there came in and talked about their thoughts.

“Once we got down to discussing what needed to be done, it came together. Most of the things we voted on were unanimous. You didn’t see people on different sides. You saw a group of people working together.”

The school relations committee met Tuesday and Wednesday at the LHSAA office to discuss/evaluate the plan approved in January that divides member schools into separate championship divisions for nonselect (traditional public schools) and select (private, charter, magnet, laboratory and dual curriculum). By definition, select schools are those that can limit or choose students to enroll.

The two-day meeting came after the LHSAA’s executive committee deferred the proposal for study to the school relations committee last month. After the meeting, LHSAA Executive Director Kenny Henderson, President Todd Guice of Ouachita High and SRC chairman Mike Boyer of Teurlings Catholic met with legislators.

Rep Alan Seabaugh, R-Shreveport, Bob Hensgens, R-Abbeville and Rep. Wesley Bishop, D-New Orleans, told the LHSAA group they plan to move ahead with a hearing for House Bill 267 next week despite the committee’s efforts. HB267 would prohibit Louisiana’s public schools from belonging to an organization that discriminates against schools based on their enrollment policy.

“I’m disappointed the legislators didn’t feel like they could put enough stock in what we accomplished,” Lutcher Athletic Tim Detillier said. “We felt it was important to honor the vote that took place in January. That’s part of the democratic process, and you couldn’t ignore it.

“Going into the meeting, I felt the gap between the (public and private) schools had gotten larger. Now I have a better feeling now. I think we found some common ground. With this, hopefully we can prevent splitting the other sports. It was positive.”

The committee recommended that select and nonselect schools be offered five championship divisions each for 2013 and all the championships should be held at New Orleans’ Mercedes-Benz Superdome, along with several items it would like to see voted on at the next LHSAA convention in January 2014.

That list of items for vote includes allowing teams to play up to any classification, to have unannounced compliance checks, to prohibit investigations during the playoffs and rules to prohibit a transfer athlete from competing for two schools in one season.

“We’re strictly an advisory group, and we were asked to look at what was passed,” Boyer said.

“We didn’t delay it (split football playoff plan), but I think we got a lot done in a limited amount of time.”