Iberville Parish high school coaches oppose LHSAA rulings on districts

Staff Report

Coaches from the three Iberville Parish public high schools said last week they will appeal a Louisiana High School Athletic Association plan to move them to select classification.

Plaquemine High (seen here in action last season) would go into a “select” classification with fellow public schools East Iberville and White Castle, based on a plan the Louisiana High School Athletic Association announced last week. All three schools plan to appeal the decision.

The plan by the LHSAA redefines “select” schools and brings select and non-select schools together again for state championship events.

The move that the association enacted without a vote from high school principals puts Plaquemine, East Iberville and White Castle in the “select” bracket.

The arguments among Iberville Parish public schools center around the definition of MSA East and West as private schools.

Eligibility is based on grade-point average. Students who meet the academic requirements can only attend the MSA schools in their residential district.

That move puts White Castle and Plaquemine students at MSA West, while students on the Eastbank attend classes at the MSA East campus.

“It’s unbelievable,” Plaquemine High School Athletic Director Tait Dupont said. “We can only use the kids who play in our schools and our school zone.”

“We can’t get kids from outside of our parish, or from White Castle or East Iberville,” he said. “In two years, that will include North Iberville.”

He said the plan creates an uneven playing field.

“The whole reason we split nine years ago was because was to create an even playing field,” Dupont said. “They’re changing the rules on their own, which I don’t think is right, and lumped everybody in there without each individual school and understanding how each school operates … they just lumped us in with other schools.”

At White Castle, the move came as a surprise for Athletic Director Marc Brown, a veteran coach who has seen the changes in the association over the nine years.

“Just as soon you have it figured out, they throw you something else,” he said. “We’re not an open enrollment area … you have to play sports in your own zone. We have a STEM program that is housed in another building, but White Castle kids, Plaquemine kids and East Iberville kids still have to play at their own schools.”

The new definition of a select school states “Lab schools, magnet schools, schools with magnet components, charter schools, parishes that allow open enrollment at all its public schools and tuition-based schools.”

East Iberville head football coach Justin Joseph said opposes the ruling for same reasons Dupont and Brown stated.

“It’s a money game,” he said. “It’s about who can make the most money out of this.”

He disagrees with the “select” branding. Unlike the “select” schools in the years since the split, East Iberville and other public school programs still cannot bring in athletes from other parishes.

Joseph sees one small advantage from the change.

“It pretty much mirrors our district if everything passes, so district would be preparation for the playoffs,” he said. “In the past, I knew it would be a different ballgame in terms of opposition in the playoffs.

“The negative side is that the other select schools are recruiting players, and we have to use who we have in our school zone,” Joseph said.

The decision by the LHSAA creates an almost 50-50 split between select and non-select schools. It marks the biggest change since a controversial vote in 2013 that split public and private schools for playoffs.

As part of the change, 89 schools will move from non-select to select. The restructure will leave the LHSAA with 207 non-select schools and 198 select schools.

The plan would also bring select and non-select schools into the same championship events next school year.

Football and basketball have had separate championship events for the last three seasons. Baseball and softball were moved to separate events for select and non-select schools this year for the first time.