Class Divide

Economics will further LHSAA’s select/non-select schools split

The life lessons taught through competition are just one of the great aspects of athletics.

Sports teach us that although we may all be on the same playing field, things are very rarely equal. There is generally a favorite, those who seem to have the sheer force, size, speed, and agility to easily achieve success, and an underdog, who must overcome the odds to win. Underdogs usually rely on a more cerebral approach in which they analyze and understand the game mentally and develop and master niche skill sets in order to succeed.

Sports also teach that success is fleeting. At the end, there is only one champion. That means the odds are stacked against winning. More often than not no matter how hard one tries, they are humbled. How they respond reveals the ongoing development of their character. Do they seek improvement from themselves and their teammates or are they content with their role even in the face of failure? How one develops their abilities and hones their skills correlates to their long-term success.

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But those life lessons will be harder for the children of Sportsman’s Paradise to learn on the field of play.

On Wednesday, 173 of the state’s 306 principals (56.5 percent) voted to adopt the extended split of the Louisiana High School Athletic Association, which beginning this fall will allow for the crowning of 57 state championships in football, boys and girls basketball, baseball, and softball.

Instead of the traditional five championship games in five classifications for the state’s football programs, as it has done the past three seasons, there will be nine state championships, with non-select (traditional public) schools in five classifications (5A – 1A) and select (private, charter, university lab and magnet) schools in four divisions (I – IV). Additionally, instead of seven championship games based on classification (5A – C) in basketball, baseball, and softball, five divisions (I – V) will be added for select schools, making for 12 championship games in each of those sports.

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The majority of select school officials did not want to split the association, however public school leaders say they are required by law to take student athletes within their designated attendance zone and are at a competitive disadvantage to select schools that can admit, even recruit, they say, student athletes without geographic restriction. These schools leaders believe their kids are competing on a different level and need to be rewarded differently.

In the process of splitting select and non-select schools, they’ve castrated the underdog. While having multiple championships allows for the opportunity for more of the state’s young athletes to gain a sense of accomplishment, those achievements are minimized when the competition they face is diluted. But they’ve also potentially impeded their future student athletes’ chances for success. There is talk that select schools will now leave the LHSAA and form their own governing body for athletics. The long-term effects of such a split, especially in the Greater New Orleans area, will be a deepening of the economic divide between local select and non-select schools.

Currently, when select and non-select schools play one another regular season game-day gate receipts are split evenly. More often than not local select schools draw a much bigger crowd than their non-select opponents, so these games benefit the non-select schools. If select and non-select schools play in different associations, head-to-head match-ups will be much less likely to happen, if they even happen at all. This will have a chilling effect on public school athletics bottom lines.

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Much like the haves and the have-nots in college football, I see select schools, which have fees, booster clubs and alumni organizations to raise funds, increasing focus on improving athletic facilities and amenities to draw the best student athletes, especially recruits for college-level ball, to their campuses. It will cause the chasm to grow as it will be very difficult for public schools, which face funding issues for academics, much less extra curricular activities, to keep up with their select peers. 



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