Selects and non-selects should be split

Published 12:01am Sunday, April 7, 2013

Ferriday High School head football coach Cleothis Cummings used Winnfield Senior High School as an example of why things needed to change.

In the 2011 LHSAA Class 2A playoffs, Winnfield squared off against perennial powerhouse John Curtis Christian School in the Class 2A state championship game.

Quarterback Alonzo Moore, who later went on to sign a football scholarship with Nebraska the following spring, led Winnfield. Cummings said Winnfield fans were hopeful Moore, one of the top players in the state that season, could help knock off the mighty John Curtis.

But it wasn’t to be, as John Curtis won convincingly, 33-3, to claim a state title. John Curtis is a select school, or a school that can pick who can and cannot attend their school. Winnfield, by contrast, is a non-select school, or a school that has to — and can only — take children within its designated zone.

“That was probably Winnfield’s best team in 20 years,” Cummings said. “They had one of the best players in the state, but they went against John Curtis, who had about five or six of those guys on offense and defense. You just crushed those kids’ dreams.”

Over the winter, the LHSAA split select and non-select schools into different playoff brackets. Non-select schools argued successfully that it wasn’t fair to go against teams that can hand pick their athletes and even recruit players from outside a designated school zone.

A pre-filed bill in the Louisiana state legislature — House Bill 267 — would do away with the LHSAA on grounds that separate playoff brackets are unfairly discriminating against select schools.

I have serious doubts anything happens with this bill. But the fact that it’s even been proposed has me scratching my head and wondering what the select schools are thinking.

Unlike Mississippi, where public and private schools play under different governing bodies, public, private and charter schools in Louisiana all fall under the LHSAA’s jurisdiction — despite the clear advantages that select schools have in building a roster.

Need a quarterback? Looking for that pass-rushing end that will cause opposing offensive coordinators headaches? Not to worry, if you’re a select school. Just cross parish or even state lines, find that missing piece and get him into school.

Not so for the non-select schools. They play with the hand they’re dealt according to school zones. It should be obvious to anyone that this isn’t a level playing field, so why is it a surprise that the non-select schools finally stood up and demanded change?

If you have the ability to recruit athletes and the ability to control enrollment — which affects classification — you should be separated from the schools that cannot do so. Fair is fair, and the old system simply wasn’t fair.

Let the teams who cannot control their roster numbers and makeup duke it out with the rest of the schools in the same predicament. It wouldn’t be fair to the New Orleans Saints if they could only draft in the first three rounds of the draft while the rest of the NFL got to draft in every round. Why ask non-select schools to essentially do the same thing?