Last week, the LHSAA announced that it had parted ways with Executive Director Kenny Henderson – ending a seven-year marriage between Henderson and Louisiana’s governing body for high school sports.
In a news release, the LHSAA expressed appreciation to Henderson for his “dedicated service.” It also touted improvements Henderson made in his tenure, expressing that he led the state during a challenging time in its athletic history.
Six days later on Wednesday morning, the LHSAA hired a temporary replacement, naming former LaGrange High School Principal and LHSAA Hall of Famer Jimmy Anderson as the interim executive director until a full-time replacement is found.
The timeline to find a full-time replacement is not yet known, and the LHSAA is expected to do its diligence in finding the best candidate it can to hold the position.
That diligence and patience is much needed because Henderson’s replacement absolutely, positively must be a grand slam, home-run hire so that the LHSAA can regain some of the credibility and respect that it has lost in recent years.
In many ways, the LHSAA is a mess. Check that – in many ways, it’s an absolute disaster. I would run quotes about what some of our local coaches and athletic directors think about the organization’s functionality, but a lot of those quotes wouldn’t be fit for print. They’ve lost trust, credibility and everyone has apathy toward how crooked things seem to have gotten.
Let’s start with the biggest problem Louisiana prep sports have had and always will have: recruiting.
The LHSAA’s rules regarding recruiting are vague and inconsistent. They are set up to where it is almost impossible for a program to get caught unless it is absolutely inept in the purest form and is caught red-handed.
I won’t name names, and none of the schools I’m talking about are local to my area. Heck, they’re not even in neighboring parishes, either. But is it really feasible for the same three-or-four teams to ALWAYS be in the Superdome on the final weekend of the prep football season? Is it really possible for one program in Louisiana to have won 11 state titles since 2001 with only home-grown kids and/or players who chose by their own free-will to uproot themselves and enroll in the school?
Absolutely not. There’s recruiting being done in Louisiana – face it.
If it’s not being done today because of a program’s name recognition, then it was done in the past to allow these programs to establish themselves in the first place.
It’s complete non-sense, and the fact that it’s allowed to happen on the LHSAA’s watch is an indictment on the entire organization – a true sign of how easy it is to skirt the rules and live on the edge without a problem.
Instead of addressing the real issues and punishing Louisiana’s rule breakers, the LHSAA and the state’s principals pretended like the entire problem didn’t exist by putting a public/private postseason split on prep football – a motion that went into place last season.
The split now crowns nine state champions (five public and four private) and has created a very diluted situation where almost every private school in Louisiana automatically goes to the playoffs and far more public school teams advance, as well because the private schools are out of contention in their classes.
The split is almost unanimously disliked locally, but it obviously has pockets of support in places throughout Louisiana because it passed a vote for a second season this past offseason.
But dissention is growing, and the private schools are already whispering that they may make their own league in the future.
Instead of punishing the 99 percent of schools that are doing things the right way, why doesn’t the organization actually enforce its own rules and take the 1 percent of cheaters out of play? Doing so would make this whole situation better, and every school would be able to play nicely without needing to be segregated, split in half or anything like that.
But away from recruiting, the LHSAA also needs a leader that can rebuild trust.
Like we stated above, schools and coaches don’t necessarily trust in the LHSAA like they once did. They just sort of endure and tolerate the organization because they have no choice but to if they want to compete in sanctioned athletics.
But a new leader with fresh ideas could get some of that back and create a more level playing field for all – an opportunity to get things back the way that they should be.
While we’re talking about fairness and equal opportunities for all, why don’t we create a Class 6A for Louisiana?
Louisiana’s Class 5A is currently unbalanced with any school with a student population of 1,115 or above getting that distinction.
But as schools get bigger and bigger in Louisiana, we’re seeing schools have 1,800 or even 2,000 kids.
West Monroe High School has 1,981 kids.
South Lafourche High School has 1,160 students.
Is it fair for a school with 800-plus more kids than the other to be competing in the same bracket on the premise of it all being an equal and level playing field?
Heck, 800 students is the gap between South Lafourche and every Class 2A school in Louisiana.
If the Tarpons or any other local Class 5A school played in Class 2A, they’d win state in everything and it wouldn’t be close.
So why are we surprised that West Monroe and the other big schools dominate Class 5A?
Take those major powers and give them their own “Super Class.” Doing this would allow more teams a chance to compete in a more even playing field.
We can’t use the argument that there wouldn’t be enough teams in the bracket for things to be exciting and competitive.
That argument went by the wayside the second that the LHSAA created the public/private split, which has 10-12 teams in some postseason brackets, which is a complete joke to the football teams around Louisiana who work hard and deserve for postseason play to remain a special, sacred thing.
Enrollment aside, I’d like to see the LHSAA also look into creating a few more opportunities for kids to succeed.
For smaller schools without the numbers to make a tackle football team, why not offer flag football or 7-on-7 football?
That’s an effort growing more lately, but should take off even more quickly.
Anything to give more kids a chance to compete is an opportunity worth exploring.
Will it happen? Probably, probably not.
Some of the LHSAA’s comments and actions in the past seem to indicate that the organization is unaware that it even has a problem.
But I’m telling you – the patience is waning from high schools across the Louisiana.
If this hire isn’t a good one, it may be the death of the organization as the only governing body for prep sports in Louisiana.
You heard it here first.
The next split will be the split private schools make when they break free from the LHSAA altogether.
It’ll be an unfortunate event, but prepare for it because it’s coming soon if things don’t shift from the way they are now.