LHSAA state title games: And then there were nine

Opinions vary on LHSAA’s split format for state titles

Ready or not, Louisiana, here it comes.

The Louisiana High School Athletic Association’s expanded State Farm/Prep Classic offers more games than ever. The three-day, nine-game event begins Thursday at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

Opinions on the split format, and a move from five to nine state football champions, vary.

The show, albeit a greatly expanded one, is what’s going on this week, and it features three games each day.

“It is what it is,” LHSAA Executive Director Kenny Henderson said at a Monday news conference. “We are going to have nine state champions, and they are all going to be deserving champions because they played by the rules given to them by the principals in the state of Louisiana.

“I think a lot of people have changed their attitudes (about the championships). We have had some people who were totally against it who now think it is great, and some people who thought it was great who are now totally against it.”

Action begins at 12:30 p.m. Thursday with Archbishop Hannan (11-2) taking on Calvary Baptist (8-4) in the Division III title game for select schools. Two more select-school championships will be decided Thursday. Three nonselect titles will be awarded Friday. One select and two nonselect title games are set for Saturday.

The final stage of the split football playoff plan approved by LHSAA member principals in January comes approximately six weeks before principals will consider a series of proposals that could change playoffs once again.

A notable set of proposals will allow each class to decide whether its nonselect/traditional public schools and select schools — a group of schools made up of private, magnet, laboratory and some charter schools — would come together and play again.

Coaches participating in the Classic have differing views on the system.

“In boxing, there are four different federations, and they all have a heavyweight champion,” Hannan coach Pat Lambert said. “Until you consolidate those, they have another fight. Make more money that way. Who is to say if down the road if it stays the way it is, they won’t have a private-versus-public.

“They did it in the NFL and the AFL when they started the Super Bowl. I am just kind of relating it to that. It has helped my school, no doubt about it.”

Rummel coach Jay Roth offers an opposing view.

“I’m a traditionalist,” Roth said. “This year the road was a little shorter, but I am glad we are back. In the old days in college, you had the AP and the UPI, and you had two champions and both teams claimed it and so be it.”

Livonia’s David Brewerton said he understands both sides of the issue.

“This is the first public school I’ve ever been in,” Brewerton said. “I was used to playing everybody. I still believe that a decision was made quickly without enough research being done.

“As far as Livonia is concerned, I sat down with our principal before the vote. I told her Louisiana has always been everybody playing against everybody else, and that’s what makes it special.

“She asked me. ‘You tell me winning a state title and making deep playoff runs will do wonders for our community. Well, if it’s split, do we have more of an opportunity to go deeper on a yearly basis?’ I said yes. We ended up voting for it (split).”

University High coach Chad Mahaffey said: “We certainly like the old way. As a coach, I understand some of the concerns other people have. Hopefully some of these suggestions that are out there (on LHSAA agenda) will make it easier for things to get back together.”

John Curtis coach J.T. Curtis stressed the importance of embracing the championship opportunity.

“It is an honor to be able to play for a state championship,” Curtis said. “Regardless of the rules, we have to play by them. We don’t want to ever diminish the opportunity to play for a state championship. I would like to see us back together. I think we put on one of the finest shows in America when we are all together. Each state championship is special to the teams and those players, regardless. Those players don’t think in terms of select and nonselect. “

Acadiana coach Ted Davidson noted the possibility of some classes coming back together, while also noting the reality that is the 2013 Prep Classic.

“I don’t have a problem if we get back together in 5A,” Davidson said. “Once the (enrollment) numbers get up to certain levels it kind of levels out. I understand the problems the smaller schools have. When you have a school with 200 boys and 150 of them are football players, it’s a problem.”

“I know this has been a logistical nightmare for the LHSAA because they have to schedule so many games and practice times. The experience won’t be the same. But you know, we’ll play whoever they tell us to play.”