During the Louisiana High School Athletic Association (LHSAA) annual athletic conference held in January in Baton Rouge, the controversial Proposal 18 was passed through much scrutiny, creating two separate football playoff brackets. The proposal passed 206 to 119, with each high school institution receiving one vote.
Proposal 18 was submitted by Winnfield High principal, Jane Griffin. The proposal calls for football teams to separate into “non-select” and “select” football playoff brackets. Non-select schools are classified as standard public schools, which typically abide by designated attendance zones. Select schools are classified as public or private schools that have an admission policy for student selection and typically serve a less specific geographic boundary.
The end result will be seven high school championship games instead of the previous five (1A-5A). The two new championship designations are 1-2A Select Schools and 3-5A Select Schools. The single division championship games of 1A through 5A will now be played by public schools only. According to St. Paul’s School Head Football Coach Ken Sears, SPS will still play their traditional district rivals during the regular season but will separate into select and non-select during the playoffs. However, another LHSAA meeting is set for this week to discuss the possibility of changing this lineup, too.
The new rule created by Proposal 18 is in response to the perceived notion that private schools can dominate the sport due to their ability to pull students from across designated geographic lines. This argument can be seen with the dominance of John Curtis and Evangel in the 2A division.
“The thing that the public schools are upset about is they feel like everybody is recruiting and all the big schools are coming in like John Curtis and Evangel and taking all the good kids, but the rules are in place already in the LHSAA. If that’s happening, all they have to do is report it. Just report it. Don’t sit there and penalize those of us who are private schools and we’re doing what we’re supposed to,” said Ouachita Baptist Headmaster Bobby Stokes in an interview with the Shreveport Advertiser.
The St. Paul’s School administration was very disappointed with the passing of Proposal 18.
“I don’t think we’re teaching good principles to our kids. This (ruling) tells them: If you are successful, you should be separated from everyone else. And if you’re not successful, you should just get rid of the successful people to succeed,” said St. Paul’s Head Football Coach Ken Sears.
Sears also pointed out important issues with player safety that could potentially be caused by the new ruling.
“Some 3A schools only have a roster of 30 or so kids. Against some 5A schools, you could have a 300 pound lineman going against a 170 pound kid,” said Sears. “Safety is supposed to be their priority.”
Sears also said that the proposal’s argument doesn’t hold water with regard to the fact that some public schools have open enrollment policies, explaining that some parishes allow students to choose which public high school they attend — including Orleans, Tangipahoa, and Lafayette parishes. He also noted that athletics are often a reason for a student to attend a public school across his or her district lines.
According to Sears, more kinks have to be worked out going forward with the new ruling. A lot more questions need to be addressed, but high school football in Louisiana will undoubtedly change.
“The future holds a lot of unknowns,” said Sears.