Vote to bring large schools back together for state playoffs looms large

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Rummel-Mandeville 2012 football playoffs
In the 2012 LHSAA Class 5A football semifinals, Archbishop Rummel edged Mandeville, 17-14 (Photo: Parker Waters).

It is that time of year.

The holidays have passed, and with the new year there is hope for re-unification, of some sorts, in the Louisiana High School Athletic Association.

Brother Martin principal Ryan Gallagher offered three proposals for Class 5A only. Any of the trio of plans would re-unite public and private schools in the playoffs in football, basketball and baseball.

My takes:

1. The passing of such proposals would be a needed boost to high school sports in our state.

2. The skeptic in me says those proposals won’t pass.

In the class votes, it is a simple vote. It takes 50 percent, plus one to pass.

To change the constitution for the entire LHSAA requires a two-thirds vote. In other words, a much higher threshold.

The last time the football playoffs was unified was 2012. That year, 5A champion Rummel defeated Barbe 35-14.

Before that, Rummel’s three previous playoff games were decided by a total of 18 points. They included a four-point win over Ouachita Parish in the quarterfinals and a 17-14 win in a classic semifinal struggle against Mandeville at Joe Yenni Stadium.

In 2012, the largest margin of victory in the eight 5A second round games was 18 points.

Fast forward to 2021, when four of the eight second round games were decided by 33, 40, 42 and 43 points.

How is that good for the sport?

Over the past 10 years, I have heard this from sports fans in our state.

“Can you explain how these playoff brackets work?”

I still cringe when asked.

Over the past several years, I have seen more and more empty seats at high school events.

On the west bank Tuesday night, WGNO Sports reported on Shaw’s basketball win over Jesuit. It was truly a great game between two talented, well-coached teams.

In the past, the gym would have been packed.

That atmosphere at Shaw was great but here were still plenty of empty seats.

Maybe I am jaded, but I think prep sports fans, those who don’t have a child or a relative participating, have looked the other way. There’s plenty of other options to fill your time. You can stay home and watch just about anything on demand. You can surf the internet all night and read social media posts ’til the wee hours of the morning, if you so desire.

On Twitter, you can follow your favorite high school team with minute-by-minute updates, sometimes even with video clips.

Who needs to be at the games?

Fans do.

That’s why reunification in the playoffs would be a good thing.

In 2012, Mandeville defeated Catholic of Baton Rouge in the quarterfinals, 28-21. That was a great football game.

In the 5A girls basketball playoffs of 2015, I watched one of the best games I have ever witnessed in 44 years of reporting LHSAA events.

At Destrehan, the Wildcats defeated Mount Carmel 90-87 in overtime. It was an absolute thriller with two teams playing tremendously in a jam-packed gym.

Those were games pitting ‘select’ and non-select’ schools for those scoring at home.

So, here we are in the new year. Will there be a sea change?

Maybe. It depends on who shows up for the vote.

I can’t see many schools in the north shore 5A district voting yes. I don’t see Jefferson Parish schools doing so either.

So, call me a hopeful skeptic.

The last Friday in January in Baton Rouge will be another chapter in the LHSAA split playoff saga.

One, that in football, is nine years and counting.

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Ed Daniels

WGNO Sports Director/106.1 FM

Ed is a New Orleans native, born at Baptist Hospital. He graduated Rummel High School, class of 1975, and subsequently graduated from Loyola University. Ed started in TV in 1977 as first sports intern at WVUE Channel 8. He became Sports Director at KPLC TV Channel 7 in Lake Charles in 1980. In 1982 he was hired as sports reporter…

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