At the end of January, the Louisiana High School Athletic Association voted to separate high school football playoffs into two divisions: one for select admission schools – such as private and parochial schools – and another for non-select public schools.
Baton Rouge Catholic High School Head Football Coach Dale Weiner is a graduate of Baton Rouge High and has been coaching high school football in Louisiana for 38 years. Although most of his career has been spent at private and parochial schools, he was an assistant coach for two years at a public school.
Weiner said he never conceived the association would take a step like this.
“This kind of came out of left field for me and so, you know, I was a little shocked at the outcome and am disappointed in it," said Weiner.
Weiner says the move essentially changes what LHSAA is all about.
WEINER: I think it robs the student athletes and the institutions of being treated equally across the board and I think when you start separating the schools for state championships you deny all those that participate on either side of that fence of being a true champion. And I also think it deprives the student athletes of just the opportunity to compete.
WESTERMAN: Your son is a public high school football coach and I’m sure you have plenty of friends that are also public high school football coaches. What kind of arguments were you hearing on their end?
WEINER: I think there’s been a couple of private schools that have been very successful – John Curtis High School in New Orleans and Evangeline Christian – that has kind of driving this move. And, you know, there’s a perceived advantage or stretching of the rules or breaking of the rules on their part that, to my knowledge, I don’t think it’s even been proven they’ve done anything wrong, either one of them. But that is a perception and I think it drove the vote.
WESTERMAN: And for clarification purposes, when you talk about the alleged illegal things happening, are they alleging that private schools are recruiting?
WEINER: It would be things like recruiting and the work recruiting is always used. You know, I’ve done this for 38 years and I’ve been at Catholic High for 26 years but I’ve been with different coaching staffs. I personally don’t know of anyone in any school that I’ve ever been associated with that has actually violated the rules. I just don’t know anybody. And I know that it does go on, I mean, it must go on but there’s definitely a perception that private schools are going out, beating the bushes, dragging people into their campuses, trying to get them, athletes in particular. And, like I say, personally, I’ve never experienced that.
WESTERMAN: National Signing Day just happened on February 6th. Do you think the splitting of high school playoffs will effect recruiting in any way?
WEINER: I don’t think that really is something that would be impacted. The only way that it could is because the level of the playoffs would be diluted in such a way that, like I said before, you won’t have true state champions and so you may not get to see really the best against the best, which could be a factor in the evaluation of talent. I don’t see it as a negative or a positive. I think it’s probably a non-factor because nowadays colleges they know who's good and it goes beyond the playing field. It’s going to go into their GPA and their test scores and the recommendations they would get from the school so I don’t think that’s a fact.
WESTERMAN: Does voting to split high school playoffs in the state maybe play into this notion nowadays that the generation that’s in high school now is the “everybody wins a trophy generation”. And it just adds to maybe the dilution of competition among young student athletes?
WEINER: Well, I think there’s a big “yes” on all of that. I think, yes, it does. You know, the nature of athletics is supposed to be about setting a goal, sacrificing, overcoming adversity, learning how to be a teammate and how to depend on each other, how to fight for something bigger than yourself, to represent a group, a community, a school. You know, alumni, that sort of thing and just developing school pride. You know, I think all of those things are bigger goals than just seeing if we can create more state champions. And every year’s different. Every year’s a new opportunity. Every team’s a different team and, you know, you do the best you can do and you let the chips fall where they may.