It could be a decision day in the saga of the Louisiana High School Athletic Association’s new bylaw that splits its football playoffs into separate divisions for select and nonselect schools starting this fall.
What decisions, if any, that the LHSAA’s executive committee might make are unknown, said Executive Director Kenny Henderson and LHSAA President Todd Guice.
The select/nonselect plan is first on the agenda at 8:45 a.m. Wednesday as the executive committee holds a regularly scheduled meeting at the LHSAA office.
One key piece of information needed for the meeting, an opinion from an independent law firm that specializes in constitutional law, won’t be available until late Tuesday, Henderson said.
Would the executive committee vote to suspend implementation of a split playoff system? Will the split system approved be altered to provide more classes for select schools? Will it be studied more? Or will the plan be implemented as passed?
All those options, and perhaps some others, are possible.
“We’re supposed to get a (legal) opinion by email sometime today,” Henderson said. “That’s obviously an important part of what we’ll be looking at. We’ll have to see what it says once we do have it.
“We’ve surveyed all the (select) schools regarding the five possible playoff plans we received. I’ll be reporting those findings to the committee. At this point, I’m not sure what’s going to happen.”
Guice, of Ouachita Parish High, also said he is not sure what to expect and nixed rumors about possible plans already being in place.
“I’ve gotten calls from people who are telling me that ‘word on the street is that the LHSAA is going to do this,’ or ‘there’s a rumor,’ and none of that is true,” Guice said.
“We (executive committee) haven’t met since the meeting with select schools last month, and nothing was decided at that time. The LHSAA has been busy with championship events since then.
“A lot will depend on the legal opinion we’re waiting on. Once we hear that, we’ll have to look at the options and work through things.”
LHSAA member principals approved a separate playoff system for select (private, charter, magnet, dual curriculum and laboratory) and nonselect (traditional public schools) by a 206-119 margin in late January.
Teams are scheduled to continue playing each other in five classes in the regular season. The proposal calls for five playoff classifications for approximately 210 nonselect football schools and two playoff classes for the remaining 81 select schools.
Since the plan was approved, there have been three key meetings. The first, held a week after the vote, involved LHSAA nonpublic schools. At the second meeting held a month ago, select schools met with the executive committee and pointed out possible contradictions that exist within the LHSAA’s bylaws and discussed other possible playoff options.
A third meeting, held in front of a new legislative interscholastic sports committee, took place earlier this month at the State Capitol and featured dialogue that involved select and nonselect speakers. Lawmakers urged both sides to resolve their differences.
Henderson said LHSAA attorney Brad Lewis arranged for the outside opinion on the constitutional issues surrounding the split plan known as Proposal 18.
Proposal 18 amended the football section of the LHSAA handbook. It did not amend a general portion of the constitution, and that’s where the contradictions come into play.
Item 8.7.4 of the LHSAA constitution states football schools will be divided into five classes. Also, item 8.7.1 states schools are allowed to play only one class above their enrollment-based class. The current plan to divide select schools would require 5A schools to play down against 4A and 3A schools.
These contradictions were reiterated in a response letter sent to Henderson and the executive committee by a group of select schools that attended the Feb. 21 meeting.
The letter also stated claims by executive committee members and Lewis at the meeting “that article 18 does not intrude upon the language of the LHSAA constitution suggests a strong bias toward what (Episcopal head of school) Hugh McIntosh described as capricious, arbitrary and arrogant decision-making” during the meeting.
The letter also rejects a playoff plan that offers additional classes for select schools saying, “Suggesting that five divisions can somehow morph into seven, eight, nine or 10 is unsatifactory. To be clear, our collective position is that the only option available to you as the executive committee is to follow the constitution and overturn the implementation of article 18.”
LHSAA executive committee member David Federico of Ecole Classique-New Orleans said he is not sure what to expect Wednesday, saying, “I honestly have no idea.”
Parkview Baptist Principal Don Green said select schools are also anxious.
“The first thing is the constitutionality of it (Proposal 18),” Green said. “I think we showed it is not constitutional.”
Green also addressed the emotional issues.
“A lot has been said since January, and you have people on both sides who are upset,” Green said. “I know I don’t hold any ill will toward anyone who is trying to fight for what’s best for their school. I think that’s what we’re all trying to do, and that’s why everybody needs to approach a meeting like this one calmly.
“Our goal should be to do what’s best for our student-athletes. There are two different opinions about what that is. I hope we can bridge that gap.”