BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - A bill designed as a backdoor effort to put an end to Louisiana High School Athletic Association's policy of splitting playoffs between public and private schools passed its first hurdle Wednesday at the State Capitol.
The House Education Committee voted 7-5 to advance HB 863, which would prevent schools receiving public money from being a member of an athletic association that separates teams between so-called "select" and "non-select" teams in the post-season.
Any such policy would force public schools to exit the LHSAA, which currently splits teams for playoffs in football, baseball, softball, and basketball. In doing so, some argue the bill would strong-arm the LHSAA into changing its policy.
"What I'm trying to do is save the LHSAA," said bill author, Rep. Kirk Talbot, R-River Ridge.
Three years ago, the LHSAA split football playoffs between select and non-select. It was designed to prevent lopsided competition, but some argue that it had unintended effects, especially during playoffs.
"Teams that have gone 1-9, 0-10, 2-8 that have gone to playoffs because brackets are so hard to fill now," Talbot told the committee.
In January, the principals who make up the LHSAA voted at their annual meeting to expand the splits to other sports, including baseball and basketball. Some schools balked and some private schools began threatening to leave the association.
"I think if that happens, financially, the LHSAA is going to be in big trouble," Talbot said.
Talbot said he would be willing to table his bill if the LHSAA changes policies.
"I wish they would solve this thing tomorrow. We could tear off this letter I handed out to you and we could figure out a way to get along like we have for 97 years," he said.
If they want to prevent such legislation from heading to the floor, LHSAA leaders have only a few months to act. The executive committee meets in April.
"Would that cause a stir if we brought that on the agenda and executive committee overturned something a decision made by 182 principals. That would be a huge issue, and I'm not so sure the committee would want to get into it," said Eddie Bonine, the executive director of the LHSAA.
The executive committee could pass a temporary measure, killing the split until the principals reconvene in January. Alternatively, they could call a special meeting of principals to discuss the split.
The bill now heads to the House floor for a vote.