Skirting the Issue: My thoughts on the LHSAA’s new football policy

DSC_0024As many of you know by now, the Louisiana High School Athletic Association’s members voted to separate “select schools” from “non-select schools” for the football playoffs for next year. The prevailing rationale is that schools that select their students have an unfair competitive advantage in athletics. This is actually true only if a school actually selects its students, and only if it selects students for athletic purposes. As to the first condition, the new policy includes all “charter schools.” Even though two people spoke eloquently to convince the members that most charter schools are open enrollment and therefore do not select their students, the membership voted down an amendment that would have removed “non-select” charter schools. In fact this was voted down in a landslide vote. It is speculation on my part, but it seems to me that most of the principals that voted against this do not even understand the distinctions among charter schools and that a general fear of them drove the vote.

As the Head of Isidore Newman School, we obviously fall into the select schools category, for indeed we do have selective admission. Our mission however is not driven by football. Are we really a threat on the football field to the public schools of this state? And if we are, is it so  problematic that we need new policy. Of course not. I spoke out against this policy and voted no for the following reasons:

  • This policy was not truly about equity, or it would have included all sports, not just football. 
  • The real problem here is the unfair competitive advantage of schools that are mission driven by football, not academics, who recruit and design their school to achieve the end of winning football championships.
  • This policy did not fix the aforementioned problem; it just moved the problem away from the public schools.
  • The LHSAA has the power to investigate and rid the state of unethical recruiting

A good friend of mine, Bo Henning, who coaches basketball in East Brunswick, NJ, is having tremendous success this year. I have always admired his coaching ability and much of what I learned as a coach, teacher, and leader comes from the many hours I sat behind his bench listening to him work with his players. In a recent Star Ledger article, Bo discusses the awful trend of recruiting in New Jersey, a state that has already separated the “select” and “non-select” schools. “It starts with the AAU people feeding the kids all this information strictly for basketball advantage. It’s all about playing for an All-Star team.” My prediction is that the split in Louisiana will only increase recruiting, as it has in other states.

Executive Director, Kenny Henderson, goes to great lengths to explain that this organization serves at the will of the principals. But as administrators, they have the power to regulate the recruiting rules that are already on the books, and if an entire organization can name the same schools off the top of their heads for violations, it is worth a thorough examination. This is really about a few schools, and because of them, we are on a much different path.

Ken Trahan from sportsnola.com interviewed me after Friday’s vote:

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