Happy New Year!
I expect it to be another great high school sports year. Like all sports seasons, there will be few challenges along the way. It’s not unusual for teams to struggle with depth, inexperience or injuries.
But as the Louisiana High School Athletic Association’s annual convention approaches, there are some key issues on the horizon that may be addressed.
I say “may be” because there is always a chance that a controversial item will be tabled. It happened last year when a proposal to divide schools into championship divisions for select and non-select schools came up.
However, a list of the issues at hand involve more than just the LHSAA. Here are my top four issues that need to be addressed in 2013:
To be or not to be the LHSAA as we know it: This one addresses not only the two select/non-select proposals but also LHSAA Executive Director Kenny Henderson’s football by divisions plan.
Previously, two attempts were made to split the LHSAA into separate divisions for public and private schools. The select/nonselect proposals are a variation on those themes and it’s all about definitions.
The non-select schools are traditional public schools, while select schools include private schools, magnet schools, charter schools, laboratory schools and or a school that can “limit or control its enrollment.”
The original proposal involves all sports and would have select and non-select teams compete against each other in district and then branch off into separate playoffs. The second proposal involves only football.
Changes like this wouldn’t likely happen until after the 2014-15 school year because the LHSAA just approved its two-year districting play for 2013-14 and 2014-15. But they would change the face of the LHSAA.
There are still some administrators who might not understand which group their school is in. It would also create more title events for the LHSAA.
Henderson’s football by divisions plan has been considered a few times since 2007. It would classify/district football separately from other sports. This plan would allow for larger football districts. Schools would be classified into other districts for other sports, allowing for smaller districts and alleviating travel.
The knock is that it would take some teams out of the traditional districts for all sports. It would also mix some Class 1A, B, and C schools, causing concerns for B and C schools who fear losing their identity.
What is the future of the LHSAA’s Top 28 basketball tournament? Last year, the LHSAA changed its Top 28 format to combine its previously separate boys and girls basketball tournaments into regional semifinals and an all-finals tournament.
The combined format failed to attract as many fans as the separate tourneys drew the year before. Skeptics wanted the LHSAA to scrap those plans this year.
But the LHSAA will honor its two-year commitment — with some alterations. A scheduling conflict eliminated Ruston as a finals host. So now the University of Louisiana at Monroe is a finals host with Hammond, Lake Charles and Shreveport-Bossier City set to be regional sites.
Will the LHSAA go back to separate tournaments in 2013-14? Inquiring minds, including plenty of basketball coaches, want to know.
What is the future of high school athletics in the East Baton Rouge Parish School System? Some people have not given this much thought, but I have.
With the departure of Baker, Central and Zachary as independent school systems and the academic issues that have put Capitol and Istrouma in Louisiana’s Recovery School District, there are fewer EBR schools. And generally, that means fewer resources, including coaches.
The new Baton Rouge High is a plus and building a new Lee High would also appear to be a positive. But as it is now, some EBR schools struggle to field teams in a broad range of sports. Paying for officials and providing proper equipment is tough. Attracting fans is an issue, too.
The high turnover rate for head football coaches in EBR is also a concern. That trend needs to change.
Some schools, like McKinley and Scotlandville, receive wonderful alumni support. A corporate partnership with major companies is a great idea for EBR. It has worked in other cities. But with LSU, Southern and all the other sponsorship opportunities, that’s also a tough sell.
What’s next for Redemptorist? Just a couple of years ago the Wolves had one of the top Class 3A football programs. A decade ago, Redemptorist played for a Class 4A state title.
The north Baton Rouge parochial school was down to Class 1A enrollment when the LHSAA conducted its classification process last fall and is playing up to 2A.
Turnover on the coaching staff has been significant and now Redemptorist is seeking its fourth head football coach since Guy Mistretta, now at The Dunham School, resigned after the 2010 season.
Redemptorist also faced struggles in the early 1990s and rebounded. Plenty of people are wondering what will happen next for the Wolves.