Special Legislative Committee Meets With High School Officials Over Controversial New Football Playoff System
The debate over the new split playoff system voted in by LHSAA member schools in January continued to get more intense as officials from public and private schools went before a special legislative committee on Tuesday.
Proposition 18 will allow for public and private schools to continue to compete in the same districts against each other, but once the playoffs begin, they will be separated into "select" and "non-select" classifications, competing for their own championships. Winnfield principal Jane Griffin, who pushed for the playoff system, believes this is a "win-win situation" for all schools involved:
More schools will be able to participate in the playoff process...We do feel like this is in the best interest of student athletes.
Griffin says by separating schools into public and private school categories, schools will compete against other schools that have similar resources. (A similar proposal to split public and private schools in all sports failed to pass.) But Episcopal athletic director Myra Mansur sees this split differently, as a bad idea. Mansur says just because there are successful high school football teams doesn't mean the whole system should be changed:
So are we gonna, as my head of school, throw a hand grenade and blow up the athletic department because one school is not able to beat another school in a football state championship? That's sad.
Griffin says she pushed for the split playoff system because she believes certain private schools, like John Curtis, have a competitive advantage over public schools:
When a school is able to dominate totally for 30 years then there is something going on.
But Parkview Baptist principal Don Green spoke out against Griffin's proposal, saying that there was no data to back up the claim that private schools have an advantage by being able to recruit top players:
There is absolutely no numbers to support...recruiting violations. There are no numbers to support any data that tells us that one school is at a greater advantage than the other. There's nothing there.
Mansur went on to add:
We have won 17 cross country state titles. Does anybody care about that? Do you think we're recruiting cross country athletes?
State Senator Page Cortez, chairman of the legislative committee, doesn't know if this debate will produce anything but a report. Sen. Cortez says he hopes the two sides will find some common ground and maintain the LHSAA as it has been for years.
At the end of the meeting, lawmakers urged the LHSAA to work out this dispute.