Parochial schools in the state of Louisiana are considering forming their own organization apart from the Louisiana High School Athletic Association (LHSAA) after principals of LHSAA schools narrowly voted last week to extend the public-private school split to include basketball, baseball and softball.

In a vote that took less than 90 seconds last Wednesday in Baton Rouge, La., 173 of the 306 principals (57 percent) voted to extend the split, which will result in a total of 48 state championships in boys basketball, girls basketball, baseball and softball beginning in the 2016-2017 school year. Each of those sports will now have championships for seven non-select, or public, schools and five for select, or private, schools, according to reports. A split in football that was instituted in 2013 has resulted in nine state champions each of the past three years.

Leaders of parochial schools originally discussed a new athletic cooperative earlier this year. That initiative drew more attention after last week’s vote, after which many of the private high school principals headed for the exits, the New Orleans Times-Picayune reported.

There are 43 parochial schools in the LHSAA, representing the largest group of select/private schools, the Baton Rouge Advocate reported. The Bishops of Louisiana, while not agreeing to move from the LHSAA, said they are exploring other options.

“The Bishops of Louisiana have approved the formation of a task force to continue looking into all options when it comes to the future of Catholic High School athletics,” according to a statement to the Advocate. “The task force will continue to meet in the coming months. By no means does this mean the Catholic schools of Louisiana have closed the door on LHSAA membership, nor has there been a commitment to any one future plan. The task force will be working for what is in the best interest of the student-athletes in Catholic schools throughout the state.”

An email sent to Archdiocese of New Orleans schools earlier this year suggested a new athletic cooperative would consist of a minimum of 60 member schools — open to private and public schools — that would pay a one-time fee of $15,000 to join.  

Championships for the athletic cooperative in football, basketball, volleyball, baseball, softball and track would be held on the campus of LSU, according to the letter from the office of Paul Rainwater, chief of staff for former Gov. Bobby Jindal. Rainwater has volunteered to serve as the potential cooperative’s executive director, the Times-Picayune reported.

Public schools have long held that private schools have had an advantage over them because of their ability to recruit student-athletes.

“I understand (private schools) have to recruit; it’s their business,” Frank Jabbia, principal at public high school Northshore in Slidell, La., told the Times-Picayune. “They have to have kids to stay in business, we get that, but they’re offering financial aid. If they need people, they ought to be recruiting the highly talented and educated kids. They’re not coming for those kids; they’re coming for the kids who are going to sell tickets on Friday nights and Saturdays, and that’s our problem.

“They’re handpicking who they want,” Jabbia added. “On our side of the district, we have just a handful of very gifted athletes, and when you lose a few of those, it puts a damper on everything else we do. That’s the difficult part. We just want to play on a level playing field.”

The same could be said for private schools in Louisiana.

“I think everybody’s wish would be to stay in (the LHSAA), but again, we have to look at what’s going to be in the best interest of the select schools, the private schools, whatever you want to call it,” Kim Broussard, athletic director at St. Thomas More Catholic High School in Lafayette, La., told the Advocate. “Why should we want to stay in? We don’t want to go, we’re being pushed out.”