Louisiana high school split boils down to north and south divide

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Winnfield-John Curtis 2011 Class 2A football championship
Winnfield fell to John Curtis in the 2011 Class 2A football championship game (Photo: Parker Waters).

Seven years after the initial vote to split the Louisiana high school state football playoffs, the chasm between public and private is as wide as ever.

Sure, there are some outliers.

North Vermilion principal Tommy Byler, who proposed six classes in football to essentially ending the split, spoke passionately about re-unification.

“I voted for the split seven years ago,” said Mr. Byler. “But, it was a mistake.”

When the votes were tabulated, more than half (179) of the 344 principals who voted on his proposal agreed.

However, to change the LHSAA constitution, the threshold for passage is steep. Two thirds approval is required.

In his press conference after the convention, LHSAA executive director Eddie Bonine did the math.

“I think we were 51 or 52 schools short.”

Some principals said they were encouraged by the mostly conciliatory atmosphere of the meeting and that more than half agreed that the split should end.

Riverdale director of athletics Sean Temple noted that his school shared the same attendance zones with two of the state’s football powerhouses, John Curtis and Rummel.

However, he said his school voted for the six class football proposal.

Northwood principal Shannon Wall spoke vociferously for the split, and the overwhelming majority of north Louisiana principals agree.

Each January, before the statewide convention, the LHSAA has area meetings.

Mr. Bonine goes around the state, to explain agenda items to be voted upon and to get input from that region’s principals. He noted that the further north he went, the less conciliatory the discussions were.

Inside the LHSAA, there are several factions. There’s public and private. And there’s north Louisiana and south Louisiana.

Below Interstate 10, the publics and privates are far more harmonious. North Louisiana is an area populated by traditional public schools. In the smaller Louisiana cities and towns, the success of their town’s athletic programs is very much a source of community pride.

Many of these places are one school towns.

It is not coincidence that the principal at Winnfield was a big proponent of the football split in 2013, and that the principal at Many was a big proponent of expanding the split to basketball, baseball and softball a few years later.

In the 2011 Class 2A championship game, Curtis led Winnfield 7-3 at the half. The Patriots scored 26 unanswered in the second half.

Just over one year later in January of 2013, the split was reality.

Whether they were right or wrong, the principal at Winnfield was certain kicking the private schools out of the playoffs was the remedy.

So, where do the schools go moving forward?

Well, in reality, they are stuck in neutral.

The split is here to stay, and at some point may be expanded to include other sports.

Unless the private schools decide to break off and form their own separate association, Louisiana high school sports will continue to be more of the same.

In north Louisiana these days, that is more than acceptable. For them, it is quite grand.

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Ed Daniels

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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