Split continues to be LHSAA buzzword

It’s fair to call the Louisiana High School Athletic Association’s general assembly vote on Friday a split decision. Just not the one many people wanted.

Member principals concluded their annual convention at the Crowne Plaza by approving several proposals designed to ease tensions between its select and nonselect schools.

An overall proposal to end the split football playoffs approved last year because of those tensions failed. Ultimately, so did an attempt to amend another proposal in order to bring a split in all sports.

“It was a unique day,” LHSAA President Todd Guice of Ouachita said. “We did not come back together in the football playoffs like some wanted. By the same token, I think we took some steps forward.

“I was really surprised a lot of those proposals passed, but I’m glad they did. That group did a lot of work and they really tried to address the topics we’ve heard about for years.”

A total of 326 out of 389 member principals registered and 310 voted.

Even though principals voted to maintain the split football playoffs in each class Thursday, the overall vote was mandated by a proposal to rescind the entire split plan by E.D. White Principal Michelle Chiasson. Though Chiasson told the group that success should be measured by more than state titles, her proposal failed 208-93.

That vote came after principals had approved some precedent-setting proposals regarding attendance zone boundaries, transfer rules, eligibility of students younger than seventh-grade, custody issues involving parents who are separated or living apart, criteria for financial assistance and allowing teams to play up to any classification.

Principals also passed a baseball pitching-limit rule that allows pitchers to complete 14 innings during a five-day period. A proposal that will limit a single practice to three hours and allow a total of five hours on multi-practice days with two hours of rest in between also passed. Schools in Class 1A, B, C gave the OK for the LHSAA to add eight-man football as an option for their schools starting in 2015-16. Items that would have required schools to play up based on a success factor or points failed. Most proposals will go into effect for 2014-15.

A potential firestorm was circumvented by the LHSAA’s executive committee decision to withdraw a proposal to reclassify football separately by divisions and put schools in six classes for all other sports. Many Principal Norman Booker told Class 2A principals on Thursday that he planned to amend that proposal to bring about a split in all sports.

Instead, Booker was among the speakers who opposed Chiasson’s proposal to end the split.

“This is not a proposal I intended on speaking about,” Booker said. “It was one that was withdrawn at the last minute, in my opinion, to keep me from amending (it) to have a split in all sports. I feel like the executive committee took away an opportunity from the principals to decide on those other sports.

“I think we have proven that we want change. We have voted twice to approve the football split. Please, let’s not revert back to the way things were.”

Ouachita’s Guice responded to those comments saying, “It (a multi-sport split) could have come today. I’ve said all along a principal needs to sign his name to that proposal and it needs to go on the agenda early enough so that the whole association can talk about it, discuss it, research it and make an informed decision. Not just have three or four minutes and then 15 seconds to vote.”

Like Guice, school relations committee chairman Mike Boyer of Teurlings Catholic was pleased with the proposals that passed, but noted the undercurrent toward a wider split.

“What I see is they (all principals) got the big picture,” Boyer said. “The items that are going to help our association, those passed. What didn’t pass (success factor) is something that would have affected individual schools.

“There was politics today. There were going to be some amendments to split all sports. Next year it will be on the agenda. If that ever passes, there’s a group of us who would have to sit back and look at what’s in the best interest of our schools and our student-athletes. We have a year.”

School representatives viewed a possible split in all sports in different ways.

“There are some of those (school relations committee) proposals I’m not sure about,” Doyle Principal Tommy Hodges said. “But we’ll see what happens and tweak them. I don’t see things coming back together, if anything I see it (split) going the other way to include more sports.”

Catholic High Principal Lisa Harvey said, “Immediately after last year’s vote there was talk about private schools forming an association. We met and talked about it, but some support for that faded. We’ll have to investigate it.”

Two members of the school relations committee, Zachary Principal Wes Watts and Lutcher Athletic Director Tim Detillier, saw things differently.

“I believe all our students should play together,” Watts said. “I’m not going to go down without fighting to keep that from happening.”

“Whether you’re for it or not, select/nonselect is here to stay,” Detillier noted. “I think the best thing we can do is tweak it and make it the best we can for our student-athletes. That’s what they deserve. I think a split in other sports may be inevitable. If that one passes, I hope we can find a way to do it and work together.”

The Dunham School Athletic Director Donna Pixley said schools need to make their choices carefully.

“I don’t think we want to make any rash decisions,” Pixley said. “I think the principal from E.D. White stated it very well today when she said athletics should not exist for just money or for a trophy. I feel like we have to stand up for our kids too.”