Schools ask for 5 titles, express anger over split

Advocate staff photo by ADAM LAU -- LHSAA assistant directors Rhonda Dreibelbis, Keith Alexander, and B.J. Guzzardo, from left, discuss a proposed amendment during LHSAA's annual convention at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Baton Rouge on Friday, Jan. 25, 2013. 1/25/13 MAGS OUT/INTERNET OUT/ONLINE OUT/NO SALES/TV OUT/FOREIGN OUT/LOUISIANA BUSINESS INC. OUT/GREATER BATON ROUGE BUSINESS REPORT OUT/225 OUT/10/12 OUT/IN REGISTER OUT/LBI CUSTOM PUBLICATIONS OUT/MANDATORY CREDIT THE ADVOCATE/ ADAM LAU Show caption
Advocate staff photo by ADAM LAU -- LHSAA assistant directors Rhonda Dreibelbis, Keith Alexander, and B.J. Guzzardo, from left, discuss a proposed amendment during LHSAA's annual convention at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Baton Rouge on Friday, Jan. 25, 2013. 1/25/13 MAGS OUT/INTERNET OUT/ONLINE OUT/NO SALES/TV OUT/FOREIGN OUT/LOUISIANA BUSINESS INC. OUT/GREATER BATON ROUGE BUSINESS REPORT OUT/225 OUT/10/12 OUT/IN REGISTER OUT/LBI CUSTOM PUBLICATIONS OUT/MANDATORY CREDIT THE ADVOCATE/ ADAM LAU

Several private school administrators used Thursday’s nonpublic school meeting as a vehicle to voice opposition to the Louisiana High School Athletic Association’s recent vote to separate its football championships into groups for select and nonselect schools.

Those views were not a surprise. Neither was the fact more than one speaker noted plans for litigation to halt or delay the split plan, along with potential plans to form a separate association.

However, the fact many of the 11 schools represented advocated five football title divisions for about 80 select schools came as a surprise.

“I didn’t expect that,” Executive Director Kenny Henderson said after the 90-minute meeting held at the LHSAA office. Henderson said the group’s recommendations will be taken to the LHSAA’s executive committee. Another meeting has been set for Feb. 20.

Though the meeting was called by Henderson with an eye on hammering out plans for a select school playoff system that will go into effect this fall, several speakers expressed their views about last week’s landmark vote of 206-119 to split the championships.

Edna Karr Principal John Hiser noted the depth of divide the select schools face.

“It’s north vs. south; it’s Protestant vs. Catholic,” Hiser said. “It’s anything that is new, and that is not a traditional public school we’re (a majority of LHSAA principals) against it. We’re faced right now with do you want to be shot or hung. Which is better? I’m going to participate in this process. I don’t care who know who knows how I feel: it’s wrong. It’s segregation no matter how you try to pretty it up.”

Episcopal Athletic Director Myra Mansur delivered a report on behalf of more than 50 schools that attended a Tuesday meeting for select schools held at Parkview Baptist.

“I’ve was asked to deliver a report,” Mansur said. “And that was that No. 1, that the group of schools present that day will pursue every legal avenue to defeat this and to restore the LHSAA as it was prior to proposal 18.

“That’s the primary purpose. Secondly, (the schools want) to look at ways to divide the divisions to make it more palatable. However, since then (the meeting) I’ve heard from double-A schools who are in that (select) division II who are opposed to doing anything that would harm their programs, but help triple-3A. And third, the group is going to look at establishing another organization.”

E.D. White Catholic President David Boudreaux also was vocal about the possibility of private schools taking legal action.

Henderson told the group that he believes the LHSAA’s executive committee has the authority to increase the number of select school playoff divisions. The proposal that passed last Friday includes a provision for two select school championships along with five nonselect school championships.

Nonselect or traditional public schools comprise more than 200 of the LHSAA’s 291 football schools. Private, charter, magnet, laboratory and dual-curriculum schools fall into the select category.

Ecole Classique’s David Federico, a member of the executive committee, chaired the meeting and told the group he wasn’t sure the executive committee would accept the idea of five select-school football divisions.

Henderson proposed three divisions, while Mansur brought a plan generated by Parkview Baptist that included multiple options.

Thibodaux’s E.D. White, Baton Rouge’s Episcopal and University High along with a New Orleans contingent that also included Archbishop Shaw, Edna Karr, Holy Cross, Jesuit and John Curtis attended the meeting.

Shreveport’s Evangel Christian was the lone north Louisiana school in attendance.

Henderson, assistant executive director B.J. Guzzardo and former executive committee member William Duplechain, of Port Barre High, also were in attendance.

Some cited concerns over the wide range of enrollment numbers for schools in the current select plan for division I, including U-High Athletic Director Jill White.

“It would be a tall order for us to go up against Jesuit or these other 5A schools,” White said. “Obviously, University High School is going to compete and do the best we can. And while we fundamentally disagree with the vote, we also have to disagree with this plan. We don’t find it equitable.”

When safety concerns were voiced, John Curtis’ Johnny Curtis spoke up. The success of Curtis and Evangel in football was noted as a key factor in the LHSAA’s split championships. The two schools have a combined total of 38 state football titles.

“I’m the elephant in the room here a little bit,” Johnny Curtis said. “And I understand that, but I’m going to disagree with a little bit of what you said about safety. I’ve been coaching now for 17 years and in 17 years we’ve been in 4A, in 2A and now we’re moving up to 3A.

“We’ve never been involved in a safety issue in a game. There’s never been a catastrophic injury. People say things like ‘You’ll need five ambulances when you play those guys.’ That hasn’t happened. We won’t let it happen, and neither will the officials. “Now if your concern is about numbers, and guys going
playing both ways, I can see that.”

Like many others, Episcopal head of schools Hugh McIntosh also stated his dual purpose. “We’re happy to work toward this (separate playoff system),” McIntosh said.

“We’re going to fighting this. We don’t think the resolution is even constitutional, much less within the power of the LHSAA to do.”