By Todd Black:
It all started with the ridiculousness of the 2013 Split proposal, authored by Winnfield Principal Jane Griffin. This proposal split the playoffs into select and non-select. Griffin’s reasoning for the proposal, to make things fair and equitable, create competitive balance and level the playing field between public and private schools. Griffin, whose team lost 33-3 to John Curtis in the 2011 state championship, also took issue with the LHSAA. The LHSAA has issues policing the football powers and noted “recruiting is recruiting.” Evidently, an uninformed Griffin believes only private schools recruit. Her theory about recruiting, since has been debunked multiple times, including by public school coaches. The more common thought process about recruiting is it’s prevalent among all schools, not just in Louisiana, but nationwide.
Before diving in, here are a few things to know.
- There are not near enough ‘select’ schools to ‘split’ the Association competitively.
- The LHSAA handbook allows private schools to go outside their attendance zones for their enrollment. Why? Every private schools attendance zone mirrors a public. In this scenario, both schools are academically and athletically equal; one is free, the other has a tuition of $5000, what school will you choose?
- If the LHSAA has issues “policing the football powers” as Ms. Griffin suggest, is this the student-athletes fault?
After the proposal passed, Griffin offered the following, “This does not take championships away from the select schools. It just makes my kids and other kids at public schools know they’ve got a chance.” In 2011, Ms Griffins Winnfield Tigers won 14 games by an average of 31 points per game (ppg). This includes wins vs public schools by 48, 54, 61 and a playoff game by 70 points. Thanks to Ms Griffin’s proposal, these public school kids now believe they have a chance.
Griffin also states “things aren’t fair and equitable” between public and private schools. Keep this in mind; the two football seasons (2011, 2012) prior to Ms. Griffins proposal being passed, her Winnfield Tigers played against 9 select schools. Winnfield won 8 of those 9 by an average close to 34 points; with their only loss to a select school coming to Curtis, 33-3, in the Superdome. In 2011, before losing to Curtis in the Dome, Winnfield knocked off St. Thomas Aquinas, Episcopal (2nd year in a row) and Calvary.
The fact her argument was bogus was just the tip of the iceberg. More concerning was the integrity of Griffin’s proposal came into question. Here are a few of the issues.
- The proposal deadline was November 15th; this proposal, according to the Times Picayune, was turned in 1/11/13.
- This proposal also forces kids to play up in class; better yet, no school can ever play down in class. Defined by the handbook, the purpose of classes/divisions is to create balanced competition and safety of the student-athletes.
- Three different legal opinions have deemed her proposal ‘out of order.’ One of those opinions the LHSAA paid $10,000 to receive but chose to ignore it.
- Because Classes & Divisions are so vital to a student-athletes safety, not just anyone can create divisions. Only the Executive Committee has this power. Ms Griffins proposal created divisions for football. Why is this important? Griffins proposal could have created 40 divisions, 2 teams in each division and it would have passed.
The below table is what Griffin claimed was ‘fair and equitable’ for the future of the LHSAA.
“The Association is vitally interested in the welfare of every boy and girl participating in its athletic contest. It is for the protection of their interests that this Association operates.”
Does this seem to be ‘fair and equitable’ toward select schools? Hence, the reason only the executive committee has the power to create divisions; not some Principal from Winn Parish who once told me “I know what goes on in my parish; I don’t know what goes on in other parishes.” Don’t you think that might be important before creating a proposal that changes the landscape of the LHSAA.
Furthermore, a series of articles published in “The Daily Advertiser” (8/1/2018) discloses that among 6 parishes in the Lafayette area there are 3,212 students attending public schools outside of their zone. There are 168 public school middle schoolers who jumped over to private schools their 9th grade year. Acadia Parish Superintendent says “sharing” of students between parishes isn’t an indication of a big time recruiting problem. Both Principals have to sign off on it.” No kidding, this is an LHSAA rule, not a public or private school rule. If this excuse can be used for students jumping parishes to attend public schools; why doesn’t this same excuse fly for private schools.
“Most out of school students who are out of zone are not athletes.” Let’s go along with this statement, whether one student or one hundred students attending a school for athletic purposes, it is still illegal. But whether or not those students are athletes or not, makes no difference. The LHSAA’s handbook does not read 25% of athletes enrolled from outside your zone; its 25% of your enrollment. At the beginning of the 2018 school year, Lafayette Parish enrolled 2442 out of 8790 students out of zone; this is 28%.
The LHSAA has done its share of homework as well. The staff compiled a Quantitative Analysis report for the 569 athletic transfers during the 2015-16 school year.
Of the 569 athletic transfers:
-189 (33%) were administered by the LEA (Local Education Agency).
Of the 189 administrative transfers (LEA):
-155 (82%) were within a public school system.
– 34 (18%) were non-public.
Overall, 15%, only 89 out of the 569 athletic transfers went from a public school to a private school.
I suggest you read Kevin Foote’s series of articles about high school recruiting in the Lafayette area. It’s not a witch hunt versus public schools; it is facts that any Principal could have found with just a little bit of research. It’s a series of articles the northwest part of the state needs to read as they “block vote” for the split every opportunity they get.
The only legitimate argument public schools have is private schools have a considerably larger attendance zone. But the notion that public schools can’t venture outside their zone, is far from the truth. In the Daily Advertiser articles, you have Superintendents acknowledging kids are outside their zone playing athletics. But there are multiple ways public school athletes can attend schools outside their zone. Federal mandates are one. The local education agency has exceptions in almost every school district. For example, Many High is the only football playing school in Sabine Parish therefore Many is allowed to pull football players from the entire parish, not just their school zone.
Another example of a LEA consideration is academics. If under the same school district and the school you are attending does not offer a specific class you are wanting to take (lets say, a drone class), with the approval of the “Local Education Agency” you can attend this school out of your district and be immediately eligible.
However, if public school student-athletes who want to academically better themselves by attending a school with a magnet, they do so with a possible price athletically. Public magnet schools such as Byrd, Scotlandville and McKinley are classified as select.
Sure, everyone has their “one-off” story about private schools; I’m sure many public schools have their share of ‘one-off’ stories about other public schools. Matter of fact, a few years ago, a Principal from a B school created a proposal to stop larger public schools from recruiting his kids. If you want to separate schools, then do it the right way. My suggestion is for ANY school that takes as much as one student-athlete from outside their zone, they play select. “Private schools have larger attendance zones, private schools get kids from 10 different zones,” I have heard it all, but it is all within the guidelines of the LHSAA’s handbook. When we discuss LEA overrides, federal mandates, these also are all within the LHSAA handbook.
This Association was built for the student-athlete’s 100 years ago. This Association is considered to be a Principal’s organization; if you ask me, this is one of the main issues today. Most Principals today come from the academia side of the house and could care less about athletics, so they defer to others on how to vote. This is especially well known for the northwest part of the state. Public schools in this part of the state voted 40-3 to stay split; the rest of the state voted 172-122 to get back together.
Overall, 135 schools have voted ‘for the split’ in 2013, 1/2016, 6/2016 & 2020. Louisiana has close to 240,000 kids enrolled in high schools. These 135 schools account for 73,109 student-athletes or 31% of enrollment.
If you want to split the Association, do it the right way for the sake of the student-athletes. There was zero research put into this proposal before it was submitted. The goals of ‘fair and equitable, level the playing field and more competitive’ were completely missed; matter of fact, the margin of victory for all split playoff formats and championships have increased. The increase in teams with losing records have skyrocketed not to mention teams making the playoffs with 0,1 or 2 wins. Teams with this few of wins go on the road and get mauled by a 1,2 or 3 seed.
The issue that lies in front of the LHSAA is not about public and private, but rather more about what’s right and what’s wrong. Sometimes in life there are things we don’t want to do, but we do it anyway because it is what’s right thing to do. This is one of those times.