Updated as of 2:09 p.m.
What started as one meeting evolved into three as the Louisiana High School Athletic Association invited select schools to its office Thursday to discuss plans for its new split football playoff format.
During an hourlong meeting in front of the LHSAA’s executive committee, school representatives discussed options for a select-schools playoff format, mentioning the possibilities of three, four and five classes. No decisions or recommendations were made.
The select group also questioned the constitutionality of the plan approved last month that splits schools for the playoffs into groups of nonselect/traditional public schools and select schools, which include private, charter, magnet, laboratory and some dual-curriculum schools.
Then the groups went into separate meetings, with many of the 116 select-school representatives on hand remaining in the LHSAA’s main meeting room. The LHSAA’s executive committee went on to meet in a separate boardroom. Reporters were not allowed in either of the separate meetings.
The select schools issued a statement after their meeting: “The representatives from the designated ‘select schools’ that attended the called meeting on Feb. 21 at the LHSAA office believe the articles passed related to splitting the playoffs for football violate the LHSAA constitution. In addition, many other points were raised at the meeting that call into question both the substance and speed of the LHSAA proposal to change rules that have served our student-athletes well for decades. We strongly urge the executive committee to exercise their authority and overturn the recent vote.”
LHSAA Executive Director Kenny Henderson received a copy of the statement.
“We are going to study what they requested and look at the constitutionality of what was passed,” he said. “And we’re going to go forward with some (online) surveys (for select schools) about playoff formats for the select schools. (LHSAA attorney Brad Lewis) is going to look at this, and he’ll more than likely consult a constitutional law attorney.”
The executive committee gave select schools until March 1 to submit select division playoff plans in writing. The executive meets March 20 and could decide whether to leave the select schools with two playoff classes or increase the number.
LHSAA President Todd Guice, of Ouachita High, told the group the first meeting was not about debating the merits of the split plan but was about discussing playoff options. That didn’t stop a number of speakers from expressing their views on the split, which was approved by a 206-119 vote of principals at last month’s annual LHSAA convention.
Several speakers questioned the constitutionality of the split proposal from a group of principals headed by Winnfield’s Jane Griffin, which amended only the football portion of the LHSAA’s bylaws, or Article 14. In the LHSAA’s base constitution, Article 8 deals with classification and states that football schools “shall be divided into five equal or nearly equal classes.”
Under the approved plan, the LHSAA’s select and nonselect schools would compete together in districts in five classes. For the playoffs, schools would be divided into five classes for nonselect schools and two for select schools. Thursday’s meeting was designed to discuss the possibility of the executive committee voting to add other classes for select schools.
“I used to be where you are,” said St. Louis Catholic Principal Ted Nixon, a former member of the executive committee during his years as a coach at Lake Charles Barbe. “One of the first things I was told was to know the constitution. You need to look at this.”
When Lewis told the group he thought the proposal followed the LHSAA’s bylaws because it has schools playing in five classes in the regular season, he elicited laughs from some in the crowd.
Archbishop Shaw Principal Louis Konopelski was the first speaker and drew applause after stating his case for five select classes to match the five nonselect classes the plan approved calls for. Another option discussed was combining 5A and 4A select schools and then allowing separate playoff classes for 3A, 2A and 1A schools. Each time a plan was discussed, the constitutionality issues resurfaced.
“You know, it’s not our intention to be combative,” University High Superintendent Wade Smith said. “There are questions that need to be answered. I can’t see how you can justify having seven, eight, nine or 10 football champions when your constitution calls for five.”