Eligibility to be topic at LHSAA convention

Whether to end the football playoff split isn’t the only proposal grabbing local coaches’ and principals’ attention when the LHSAA annual convention commences Wednesday in Baton Rouge.

Several amendments to eligibility rules, a potential tournament success factor and a baseball pitching limitation are some of the other hot topics that will be discussed.

The most significant eligibility proposal states that parish boundaries and not attendance zones designated by the public school board could determine a student-athlete’s eligibility.

Upon entering high school, a student-athlete could be athletically eligible at any high school in his home parish, if that student is able to attend that particular school via a magnet status or another stipulation like minority to majority transfer.

“In Caddo Parish, (the proposal) is a moot point because virtually every school has a magnet,” said Byrd principal Jerry Badgley. “A parish like Rapides already has a parish-wide attendance zone.

“But let’s say a student starts at my school as a freshman, transfers across town in a bona fide move … these rules say they’ve got to sit out a year.”

Only using the parish as attendance lines is currently on the 2014 convention agenda, but similar proposals have been tabled by rule to be considered at the 2015 convention. An eligibility proposal must be made public for one year before being voted on at the convention.

Calvary coach John Bachman, Sr., said transfers like defensive back Santos Ramirez’s move from Captain Shreve to Evangel and offensive lineman Cameron Robinson’s move from Ouachita to West Monroe would not be declared immediately eligible if the new proposals eventually pass. Rather those players would have had to sit out one season.

“My magic word is private, yours is magnet or charter,” Bachman said about some schools basically already using parish lines for boundaries. “The bottom line is that kids are crossing lines, but it’s right for your kids and wrong for my kids?

“Now it’s simple for a Caddo Parish kid. When you get to high school, it’s basically where do you wanna go? You get to choose one, but if you decide to move, then you lose a year (under this proposal).”

Northwood football coach Jim Gatlin said just because the LHSAA might say a student-athlete would be eligible at any parish school, it doesn’t mean that the student could necessarily enroll in a public school outside of his attendance zone.

“It doesn’t mean the school board will allow it,” Gatlin said of the proposal’s effect.

“But it might be tough for certain Caddo schools to survive under (the proposal), so I don’t know if it would be real good for the parish.”

Another eligibility proposal seeks to change the age of an eligible athlete. The current rule states that if a student turns 19 after Sept. 1, the student is eligible the entire school year. The proposal seeks separate deadlines for each sports season, which includes a Nov. 1 deadline for winter sports and Feb. 1 deadline for spring sports. If passed, the proposal wouldn’t take effect until 2018-19.

If a tournament success factor passes, programs that have a great amount of success over a two-year classification period would elevate to the next highest class.

A program that won a state championship and advanced to at least the semifinals in the other season of a classification period would be required to move up one class.

North DeSoto baseball (3A champions in 2012 and semifinalists in 2013) would have moved up to Class 4A in that one sport under the tournament success factor even if the school’s enrollment stayed in the 3A range.

Arcadia principal Jeff Sampson, who is also an LHSAA Executive Committee member, said he’s unsure of the tournament success factor.

“I’ve got a boys basketball team that could be state championship contenders the next two seasons, but what you run into is my girls’ team might stay in Class A, and my boys might go up,” Sampson said. “If you have so many points under this new system, you will have to play up.”

The proposal adds that a school can also choose to move its other basketball team up a class if a program is forced to play up, but that could adversely affect the program not achieving the tournament success factor.

Back to baseball, one proposal seeks to limit a pitcher to 14 innings over five calendar days and 10 innings in a three-day period.

North DeSoto coach Bo Odom says he keeps his pitchers on a pitch count anyway, but even Austin Pinnick and Jared West didn’t come close to the proposed innings limitations.

“It’s not going to affect us,” Odom said. “We wouldn’t have anybody come close in the last five years.

“But maybe it affects smaller schools. But in today’s game, with so much research and technology used in how to protect kids’ arms, the most successful (programs) around here are going to track pitches anyway.”

Under the proposal, one pitch in any inning counts as one full inning.

In a playoff setting, a smaller school might ride one arm in multiple games on one day or several consecutive days.

What probably wouldn’t be allowed is the Rummel-Jesuit marathon of 2012 in which Jesuit pitcher Emerson Gibbs tossed 15 innings at 193 pitches while Rummel’s Mitch Seward threw 10 innings at 154 pitches.

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