Playing By New Rules

By Todd Black:


Every so often I remind people that may be new to the Louisiana Prep Scoreboard Facebook page that I am a public school graduate; I moved to Ascension Parish for my kids to attend public schools. I have also coached at both private and public schools. I have followed the split for quite some time. I have run every number possible. Because the “pro split” argument didn’t add up, I chose to use the Freedom of Information Act and request emails from certain Executive Committee members. After reading these emails,my quest to do the right thing was ignited. To say the least, these emails proved that these Executive Committee members were out to push an agenda and they would do anything necessary to get it passed and they did.


The most appalling part of the split is the Executive Committee had been told on several occasions that the proposals that passed the split were unconstitutional. The 2013 proposal wasn’t even submitted on the correct timeline. All proposals for the January Convention are due to the LHSAA November 15 of the previous year. The 2013 football split proposal was received early January 2013. But the major violations of the constitution come within the content of the proposals.


Over the years, listening and reading how some public schools blame all their issues on private schools gets tiring. If all it took was talent to be competitive and win state championships, how is it some of the most athletic and talented teams never win?


“Winning is not a sometime thing; it’s a all the time thing.” Vince Lombardi


I don’t have all the answers but from my experience, this is what I have learned. To win you have to have an administration committed to winning in athletics. That administration has to find a head coach with organization, commitment and discipline. That head coach has to have accountable coordinators with the same vision. The coordinators have to have assistants willing to work hard, build relationships and coach their asses off every play. As a whole, this staff has to know when to push their team and when to lay off. The final piece to this puzzle is staff cohesiveness. This type of cohesiveness creates a team chemistry among players and staff that becomes crucial when facing adversity.


The next step is for the head coach to reach out to his “feeder schools” (middle school programs that feed to his high school) and get those coaches to share his vision. Easier said than done because of the dynamics of how middle schools are run; middle schools have teaching spots for coaches, just not near enough for the amount of kids they dress out. However, either way, a lot can be accomplished at the middle school level when it comes to preparing players for their football future. In many, many ways middle school coaches are one of the most important parts of the “wheel.” For example, I played high school football for Neville. I ran the same plays in Junior High as I did in 12th grade; the plays that weren’t exactly the same, still used the same numbering systems, tags and verbiage. The sooner ‘a system’ can be implemented, the better the outcome.


For the most part, from conversations I have had with other coaches, this is close to the gold standard. If your school is not doing something similar to this, you have no right to complain about losing. All of these things are controllable. All successful programs, especially football, have this in place to some extent.


Now to a few of the “said issues” for the split. Blaming private schools for recruiting is a “cop out.” Since the split of 2013 it has been well documented that recruiting is not a private school issue; it is a integrity issue faced by all schools in the LHSAA. The LHSAA is a “self-policing” organization that prides itself on a set of principles and core beliefs that every student-athlete should abide by; but so should coaches, parents and administrators. I ask “before looking outward, look within to see if you are doing all the right things to make your school as successful as it can be.” This reasoning is more controllable than blaming others.


The next argument is “everyone should play by the same rules.” For those of you who are concerned by this, let me say that the ‘same rule theory’ doesn’t even apply within the public school sector standing alone. Some public schools benefit from federal mandates that others do not; some public schools benefit from LEA (local education authority) that others do not and so forth and so on.


School zones. I do acknowledge that private schools benefit from an attendance zone with infinity boundaries. No, it’s not fair; honestly none of it is fair if you want to know the truth. But the LHSAA allows private schools to pull from different attendance zones because of the following. Each private school shares a school zone with a public school. If that public school is any good at all, that public school should get 90% of that attendance zone. That leaves the private schools with only 10% enrollment. Common sense told the ‘founding fathers’ that private schools could not operate with this small percentage of numbers for their enrollment therefore getting kids from outside their attendance zone was allowed.


To recap, the LHSAA constitution and handbook allows private schools to enroll kids outside their traditional attendance zone. The constitution and handbook also allows for public schools to use federal mandates to enroll students (M&M (minority to majority) & School Choice) plus LEA overrides. So under the current Constitution and handbook it is next to impossible to ask the membership to find a solution where everyone follows the same rules.


This entire debacle could have been avoided if someone would have done the research. I will say, I did do it and gave it to the presenter of the 2016 expanded split proposal. Yes Norman Booker’s name is on the proposal but my gut tells me he was the fall guy to do what a bunch of other principals didn’t want to do, sign his name to the proposal. I believe Booker considered pulling his proposal in 2016 but was pressured by the same Executive Committee members I spoke of earlier to keep it on the agenda. I also believe if both authors had a crystal ball and knew their proposals would have caused so much chaos within the LHSAA, they would have never authored them.


I think moving forward the LHSAA should require Principals to do some legwork behind their proposals. I think it would be good if “Constitutional changing proposals” be given “a one year trial period” before being implemented. By doing this, the LHSAA staff and membership would have time to see how it plays out.


As far as now is concerned, in 2017 the basketball and baseball coaches association put up proposals to get back together. The Principals overwhelmingly voted it down; this should be revisited. In this particular instance the coaches know better than the principals. Not just because they want to get back together but because the coaches are closer to the situation. As far as football is concerned, a lot of coaches would like to see this get back together. If this were to happen, I would ask John Curtis and Evangel to stay at the highest classification for competition purposes.


If none of the above is a solution, then for now, the very minimum is to reduce the number of teams in 2A/1A in all sports to 16 and do the same for Class B/C if not combine those two classes. On the select side, continue to keep all brackets at 16. By doing this you have brought integrity back to the brackets and respect to the Association and right now, that is a much needed step.