Hurricane season is fast approaching but the Louisiana High School Athletic Association (LHSAA) has beaten mother nature to the punch when dealing with gale force winds of change. In a statement released on Thursday, the executive committee of the LHSAA announced that a major change in the way a “select” or “non-select” school is identified had taken place.
Under that new definition, any LHSAA member determined to be a laboratory school, magnet school or one with magnet elements, charter school, tuition-based school or schools in parishes that allow open enrollment at all its public schools would be considered “select” schools beginning this fall.
The stunning bombshell drastically changes the landscape of the LHSAA postseason in all sports and directly affects Jonesboro-Hodge, Quitman and Weston as Jackson Parish falls under the “open enrollment” category.
As far as the change to the postseason, last season 296 schools were designated as “non-select” and played in seven seperate classifications ranging from Class 5A to Class C. There were 109 institutions deemed as “select” schools, which played the postseason in five Divisions. Under the new arrangement there are now 198 “select” schools and 207 “non-select” schools.
The seismic shift perhaps affects the three schools in Jackson Parish harder than any other in the state. At Jonesboro-Hodge, under the current structure the move means the Tigers would most likely be a Division III school meaning that other than Menard High School in Alexandria all other schools in the division would be located south of I-10. This would result in tremendously raising the cost to participate in the playoffs and put JHHS at distinct unfair disadvantage as they would be forced to compete against schools that are allowed to recruit players.
Quitman and Weston would be affected in regard to fair play but more so in their favor, as they would both be Divison V schools. This would mean that there would be less games that would have to be played in order to make it to a state title game and no longer would the schools be forced to go through such Class B powers as Simsboro, Zwolle, Choudrant or Doyline in boys competition or the south Louisiana powers that dominate girls play.
What is most confusing is that it was said that the moved was based on LHSAA bylaw 4.4.4, which calls for the promotion of fair play among member schools. According to JHHS athletic director Terrance Blankenship it does just the opposite.
“The reason that the LHSAA first seperated the “non-select” or public schools and “select” or private schools into seperate playoffs was to give public schools a realistic chance of playing for a state championship,” said Blankenship. “It has been proven beyond any doubt that when both competed against each other in the playoffs the “select” schools almost always won. Now they are putting the public schools back a a major disadvantage. If this is about fair play it doesn’t make sense.”
What seems to be the real driving force is the desire by the LHSAA to have a more equal number of “select’ and “non-select” schools represented in the playoffs in each classification and division. As it was last year, only one of the five divisions had enough teams in it to play a full 32 team bracket compared to six of the seven classifications.
The decision doesn’t go into effect until later this month and parishes that currently have open enrollment have until June 22nd to change their policy if they wish to have their schools stay as a “non-select” school.
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