Dig Baton Rouge

Legislating the LHSAA: Louisiana needs separation of football and state

This is a tumultuous time to be a fan of high school sports in Louisiana, because there are some pretty crazy and chaotic things happening to the Louisiana High School Athletic Association and its member schools.

In January, the state’s principals voted by a decisive margin at the LHSAA’s Annual Convention to expand the select/non-select postseason split that has been in existence for the past three football seasons.

Instead of just football postseasons being separated, the vote signified that basketball, baseball and softball will join the party beginning in August with the start of the 2016-17 school year.

Since the Annual Convention, chaos has erupted in the association, and many supposed peacemakers have come to the forefront with solutions that they believe can bring peace to high school sports.

One plan would see the private schools form their own league – an LHSAA alternative that would be open to all comers.

Another proposed idea comes in the form of state legislation which would force the LHSAA to come back together as one – a strong arm bill attempt that would see schools lose their state funding if they compete athletically in a league that’s not open to anyone in Louisiana’s borders.

Proposed and authored by State Rep. Kirk Talbot, the bill was supposed to be voted on last week, but was tabled after a request from LHSAA Executive Director Eddie Bonine, who asked for a little time to create a solution that worked for all parties involved.

Here’s my take on the whole ordeal: Why in the hell are Louisiana government officials worrying about how the LHSAA is being run? Especially at this time in our state’s history – a time when money is scarce, items are being cut and the statewide economy is troubled by the subpar price of oil.

It just doesn’t make sense – another example of government trying to be too big and powerful over its people.

The LHSAA was founded in 1920. By my math, that means they’ve been in operation for almost 100 years.

Sure, there have been bumps in the roads and there have been struggles, but the fact that they’ve been able to survive for nearly a century tells me that they’re doing things right in terms of governing their members.

It should be the LHSAA and its members’ right – and not anyone else – to decide how the future of the organization is shaped going forward.

The split is what it is. It has been debated and discussed for hours on-end.

But ya’ know what?

It’s what the people who know the most about this stuff want.

Principals have voted not once, not twice, but THREE-straight years to continue the split, and each time, the margin gets a little bigger in favor of separation.

The private schools bicker and complain, but they’re outnumbered.

Oh shucks. That’s part of democracy. The minority in a given issue doesn’t get their way.

And that’s how it should be – so long as everyone gets an equal vote in the process.

Who is Kirk Talbot, and why should he stick his nose into the situation and proclaim that the way the LHSAA is doing things is all wrong?

How is it reasonable to think that the state’s political lawmakers – most of whom were never coaches or teachers – will know more about the LHSAA’s issues than the state’s principals do?

How is it fair for them to strong-arm an almost 100-year-old organization’s processes?

Let the LHSAA run itself, Mr. Talbot. They’ve done their jobs at a high level since before you were born.

The way I see it, our state has bigger fish to fry – like how to get out of the hole we’re in financially. If you’re that concerned about schools, Mr. Talbot, why not focus your time and energies on what really matters – like taking care of our state’s colleges, which are now strapped after being cut to the bone.

That’s what we really need from our lawmakers – those are the issues that matter.

We can fix how the high school football playoffs are run on some other day.


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