One year after LHSAA members voted to split “select” and “non-select” football programs for the playoffs, that issue will be the cornerstone of the LHSAA annual convention starting Wednesday in Baton Rouge.
Except this year, each individual class can choose whether or not to reunite the select and non-select football programs.
The general consensus? Well, there isn’t a concrete view of what each class will do.
The most commonly held view is that Class 5A (and corresponding Division I members) and Class 4A (Division II) will come back together, Class 1A (and Division IV) may be a toss up, and Classes 2A and 3A (and respective Division II and Division III members) will not rejoin.
Byrd, one of two Class 5A dual-curriculum schools that “selected” enough of its students to be classified in Division I along with Scotlandville, arguably benefited from the split as the football team appeared in its first championship game since 1962.
But principal Jerry Badgley said he is in favor of rejoining Class 5A.
“(Voting) by classification is probably a good thing … but I never thought there was any justification in the split,” Badgley said. “What do entrance requirements have to do with football? That’s my complaint.
“I would prefer to see things come back together even though it (the split) might have favored us. It cost the school financially, and we spent well over $10,000 to get people down and back, and that’s not counting football players. Because there were only (10 teams in the Division I playoffs), we played two fewer games and didn’t have the (home) games for a chance to recoup that money.”
Parkway joined Byrd in New Orleans as a non-select 5A member, falling to Acadiana in the championship game while Byrd lost to Rummel.
Football coach David Feaster said a week after the championships that he wants to keep the separation.
“All programs benefit from it because you go further in the playoffs, and it makes you better,” Feaster said in mid-December, adding that he at least wants to give the structure about five years to have a larger sample size. “There’s not a downside.”
Northwood football coach Jim Gatlin said the split didn’t really affect Class 4A non-selects. Teams like St. Thomas More and Teurlings Catholic moved to select because of their private-school status, but a dual-curriculum school like Edna Karr remained with the non-selects.
“There’s open enrollment at certain places where kids can migrate anyway,” Gatlin said. “But should that be the reason you vote yes or no? I don’t think so.
“What might be best for the overall state may not be best for your school. It’s hard to do and even hard for me to do at times because we would love to play for a state title. But it’s almost like a school board meeting in that you should decide what’s best for the whole system.”
Besides a tough game at Catholic-New Iberia, Calvary rolled to a Division III state title, its first in football. Yet coach John Bachman, Sr., would rather rejoin the classes to provide tougher competition than award a “watered down” state championship, as he said following the 2013 championships.
“We’ve gotten away from competition and earning something versus being given something,” Bachman said. “I certainly understand all the people that went to the playoffs that hadn’t been there before.
“… But I want a Navy Seal that didn’t ring the bell going out on a mission, not one that did.”
Jeff Sampson, Arcadia High principal and one of two northwest Louisiana principals on the LHSAA Executive Committee, said he thinks the reunification of football programs is “up in the air.” Ebarb High’s Darrin Dyess is the area’s other committee member.
However, football isn’t Sampson’s main concern. If football is going to remain split, Sampson wants to see other sports split, too. There isn’t a proposal on the current agenda, but one may be brought up and discussed at the convention.
“I think we jumped the gun in only voting to separate in football,” Sampson said. “The same kid that is playing football is playing basketball and baseball, too.
“We’re playing (select) schools like Cedar Creek and Grambling Lab in the regular season, and then we’re going to play for a different championship. I don’t know if we looked at this and saw it all the way through … If we make a rule or say we’re doing it in the best interest of students, we should do it for all sports.”
Class 1A/Division IV is the only classification in which the select schools outnumber the non-selects. Making eight-man football an LHSAA-sponsored sport is another proposal that will be considered for schools with 235 or fewer students, and that could further shrink the 1A/D-IV ranks.
Class 1A had 27 teams while Division IV had 30, and Sampson said he wants to either see a 16-team bracket adopted in both groups or see the groups come back together.
“It benefited us the way it was — we went on the road and won (a playoff game as a No. 17 seed),” Sampson said of Arcadia football. “But that doesn’t mean it was right.