The flip side of 'fair'

Kyle Riviere

When it was announced that principals from across the state voted to uphold the new proposal of implementing the select/non-select playoff format in four more sports, it was met with a multitude of jeers from coaches and fans alike.

Well, after its inaugural season in basketball, you would have to say that the groans of displeasure and the collective negativity were all justified.

Much of the boys and girl’s basketball postseason has proven to be a farce, and it’s not good for high-school sports, it’s not good for the schools and it’s certainly not good for the student-athletes.

Football was the first sport to be introduced to this select/non-select format four years ago.

This new playoff system was decided upon after so many public school coaches complained that private schools had a competitive advantage due to their ability to recruit players from outside their school districts.

As a result, four new divisions were added once the playoffs started. These new divisions would be exclusively for select schools—which included laboratory, private and magnet institutions.

The results produced mixed reviews. It became one of those polarizing topics where you were either strongly for it or strongly against it; there was no gray area.

It took just 90 seconds for the principals to vote for the LHSAA to introduce a similar system for basketball, baseball and softball in 2017.

Although, things are a little different.

Instead of nine separate divisions, there will be 12. That means that between the four sports, 48 state champions will be crowned.

Immediately after the vote, there were coaches expressing their displeasure. One of the main concerns was that having so many new divisions would water down the postseason. They hit it dead on the head.

The basketball playoffs have been so ugly in so many different ways.

Before this system was approved, Ruston Principal Ricky Durrett made the claim that this split would result in as many as 300 teams with losing records making the playoffs between the four sports. His math wasn’t so fuzzy.

As it turns out, in the girl’s basketball playoffs alone, there were 287 teams that made the postseason field. Ninety-Eight of those teams had losing records.

That means that more than a third of the teams that made the postseason were below .500. This should not happen.

Making the playoffs is supposed to be a special achievement. It’s supposed to be something that is reserved for only a select few, a group of teams that have proven to be in the top tier of their classes.

The glow of that achievement significantly fades when every team—regardless of their record—is given an invite. There were actually multiple teams in the boys and girl’s playoffs that didn’t even win a game on their schedules.

And with so many divisions, it was hard filling the brackets—even with teams that lost 20 and 25 games.

In the girl’s playoffs, the Division-I bracket had nine teams—which created guaranteed first and second-round byes for the top seven seeds.

In Division V, there were a grand total of seven teams—all of which automatically reached the quarterfinals. Only three of these seven teams had winning records.

During the course of the playoffs, there were three games that were decided by at least 90-point margins.

What did they think was going to happen when they pinned a juggernaut like Madison Prep against a team in Rosepine that had no business being in the playoffs? The result was a humiliating 134-32 drubbing.

What did they think was going to happen when they had fifth-seeded Red River facing a General Trass team that shouldn’t have been in the playoffs? The result was an embarrassing 100-5 outcome.

But this new format was supposed to be about fairness, right? This was supposed to reward the student-athletes.

How is being on the losing end of a 100-5 beatdown accomplishing that?

One of the principals from one of the three teams that was beat by 90 points in Division-IV told me that select schools are in a tough position. They don’t like this new system, but there’s nothing they can do about it. It is mathematically impossible for them to out-vote the public school principals.

She said, “If—yes, if—I recruited, it wouldn’t be a 90-point differential. Just saying.”

The LHSAA has a mess on their hands, but it’s just going to get worse.

Wait until baseball and softball season. I will go on record guaranteeing the most 15-0 and mercy-rule games ever seen in a single postseason.

But then again, at least in those sports there are mercy rules to protect the student-athletes. They’re not getting much of that these days.