Although the major focus of the 2014 LHSAA Convention revolved around whether the split of select and non-select teams for football would be voted out in certain classes or entirely, the final day did end with somewhat of a bang.
The split remained for football, but the biggest decision of the day was when the vast majority of principals voted 184-125 in favor of allowing the civil parish boundary line serve as the athletic attendance zone for all member schools.
Meaning that students who live in a parish with multiple high schools will receive a school of first choice and will be eligible immediately for athletics on the varsity level. The rule would take effect July 1.
“I don’t know if everything came out like I expected it to,” LHSAA Commissioner Kenny Henderson said. “We took the recommendations of the school relations committee and put it to a vote. Some of the changes affect how we’ve always done transfers and residency.
“There could be some unintended consequences that come from changing those things, but the principals voted for it and they voted for it pretty overwhelmingly. Overall, I pleased with the way things happened here.”
Teurlings Catholic Principal Michael Boyer, who was disappointed with Thursday’s decision to remain split in all classes, called Friday’s turn of events “a good day.”
“Thursday wasn’t a good day because I thought as it related to Teurlings personally that we had an opportunity to get back together,” Boyer said. “(Friday) was somewhat exciting because we were able to pull somethings off the table that would have had to sit for a year and vote on them. The voting in its favor was overwhelming and that was good to see.”
“In our situation, I consider it to be a positive,” St. Thomas More athletic director Kim Broussard said. “I’m one of those who wants to keep it simple and clear. For our situation in Lafayette Parish, I like the idea because it keeps it very simple, very clear. It’s pretty much black and white. We already have an open enrollment in Lafayette Parish if you want to call it that, because all the public schools in Lafayette Parish are allowed to accept kids. They have particular rules, but I think it benefits all the schools – public and private in Lafayette Parish. To me, that just kind of clears things up a little bit for us.”
Under the civil parish boundary line rule, a Lafayette Parish eighth-grader who is zoned for Northside High but gets accepted into the academy at Acadiana High is now eligible immediately for all varsity sports whereas previously they would have been only eligible to play sub-varsity sports.
“Overall, I believe the changes are equitable,” Westminster Christian’s athletic director and head football coach Tommy Badon said. “There are already some parishes around the state who have this rule in place. But for some it won’t affect them at all because they either have strict guidelines established by their school system for instance St. Martin Parish or they are under strict orders from the courts of where residents must attend school because of desegregation and minority-majority like in St. Landry Parish. So, I’m not sure how much of a difference it is going to make in our area.”
“The big surprise for me on the day was the civil parish line item being voted in,” Westgate athletic director and head football coach Ryan Antoine said. “It is going to be interesting to see what happens with that. It was debatable, but now that it happened we’ll see where it goes from there.”
But not everyone was in favor of the newly adopted civil parish boundary line and Acadiana High was among those who voted against it.
“After talking to our coaches, we decided to vote against it,” Acadiana High Principal David LeJeune said. “For our school, we don’t lose a lot of kids to select schools. Our Acadiana High community comes to our school regardless.”
In addition to the civil parish boundary line being voted for, the majority of principals also approved a new transfer rule requiring student-athletes to be ineligible for one-year unless their transfer is approved by administration of both schools, the student is transferring from a non-member school to a member school or they make a bonafide move into another parish.
Also adopted, no students below the seventh grade will be allowed to compete in any LHSAA sport, single-gender schools seeking admission into the LHSAA will need a minimum of 38 students in grades 9-12 instead of 75, schools will be allowed to play up in any classification but must do so in all sports and an inning count for baseball pitchers has been implemented to avoid overuse of a player.
“The civil parish boundary line could open things up for eighth and ninth graders, but kids who want to go to another school are going to go to another school,” Henderson said. “The new transfer rule though will keep them from transferring in later years.”
In the eyes of Boyer and the executive committee, the decisions on Friday will be instrumental in righting what ails the LHSAA.
“The parish boundary line and the transfer rules eases some of the work hours that came with dealing with in-parish transfers,” Boyer said. “As a freshman you have a choice and if you alter the choice once making it you must sit out a year. These changes puts us closer to stopping the people who have circumvented the rules.”
John Curtis head coach J.T. Curtis believes the decisions made by the majority of the principals in terms of keeping the split has sent the message “they aren’t welcomed” and starting their own association wouldn’t bother them at all.
“Well, there’s such mixed messages,” Curtis said. “I think it’s obvious that we’re not wanted. They don’t want us to be in the playoffs. I don’t know how other people feel, but I think they’re sending a very strong message that they wouldn’t care if we separated or not. Maybe I’m misreading that. I don’t know, but that’s kind of the way I feel.”
Regardless Curtis isn’t convinced that last year’s playoff setup represented that of a playoff bracket.
“There’s a lot of discussion that has to go on about how they’re going to have an organized, viable playoff system,” Curtis said. “I think again, unless something looks reasonable – and last year I thought was on the borderline of being unreasonable to have two byes in a five week period – you’re almost asking us to walk out, to go do something else. Because we really don’t have the time to deal with all these problems.”
As they move forward, it is beginning to look more and more unlikely that the LHSAA will ever reunite.
In fact, this time next year a split in all sports looks to be very possible.
“I agree,” Boyer said. “I’m not sure if the amendment would have passed today, but the risk was too great to let that happen,” Boyer said. “You couldn’t let that happen with an association that wasn’t prepared for it. I thought it was a good reactive move by the executive committee to have something postponed that I think the association isn’t prepared for.”
“To have an amendment (Friday) wasn’t a good idea,” Lejeune said. “But with the way the voting went in class, there’s a good chance we are heading in the” direction of splitting in all sports.”
Badon hopes a split in all sports isn’t on the horizon, because he’s adamant it would be bad for the association as a whole.
“I hope it doesn’t happen,”” Badon said. “I don’t see how a complete split is beneficial to anyone. I can’t say whether we will split or won’t split next year, but I just don’t see how it will be beneficial.”