The majority spoke at the LHSAA’s annual convention at the Crowne Plaza hotel in Baton Rouge: not only will the select/nonselect split continue, it will widen.
That majority did not necessarily include some Acadiana area principals, though official voting results won’t be made available until Monday. Words like “disappointed” and “frustrated” were used by some, while others, like Carencro Principal Ken Roebuck, saw it as an unfortunate reality.
Roebuck seconded the motion authored by Many principal Norman Booker that would apply the select/non-select split that has been in place since 2013 for football to basketball, baseball and softball. That plan passed with a roughly 60 percent majority.
That did not mean Roebuck was a proponent of the split, he said. But he felt if the split were to remain in place for football, then it needed to be in place for all sports.
“I think it’s a shame, because I’ve been on both sides,” Roebuck said. “I’ve coached at St. Thomas More and I’m a principal at a public school. … If I’m going to claim that I’m the best, I want to beat everybody. I think they ought to all play together. However, if they’re going to do it (the split) to football, they’ve got to do it to others.”
Roebuck and Teurlings Catholic principal Mike Boyer suggested the decision to apply the split to baseball, softball and basketball could be seen as evidence the LHSAA membership did not have confidence in Executive Director Eddie Bonine’s ability to arrive at an equitable solution.
“Obviously we’re disappointed that the split has furthered itself,” Boyer said. “I don’t know if it’s an indication of their trust in the new director that he can fix things, or if it’s just the direction that we’re going to head.”
The passage of the plan, authored by Many Principal Norman Booker, means the split for the other sports will go into effect next school year.
“There is no real way to make things absolutely fair, but this is the closest thing this association has come up with in 20 years to get it right,” Booker said. “So to expand it to other sports was the best thing we could offer.”
Bonine expressed in his opening statements Friday that he was hopeful the organization could “come together and come up with a solution that will help everybody.”
After the decision to split further was made, Bonine said he will abide by the membership’s wishes and carry out the plan.
“Everybody’s cards were on the table today,” Bonine said. “The membership has voted, and it’s a principals’ association. They have given direction to me and the direction we will go to continue to move forward to participate in the competitive format that has been approved.”
Boyer said he wasn’t sure the LHSAA membership considered the potential consequences brought forth by extending the split to three more sports.
“The membership is unprepared to know how it’s affecting the contracts that they have with the championship sites and the vendors at the championship sites,” Boyer said.
There’s also some uncertainty about the title sponsorship of the state championship games. The All State Sugar Bowl has a clause in its contract with the LHSAA that would allow it to pull out of the agreement if there was significant change to the LHSAA structure.
“They voted on something where nobody knew what the effects are going to be after the vote,” Boyer said. “It may come to pass that, financially, they made a very bad decision.”
The plan passed by a 182-120 margin, and the split could expand again next year.
Port Barre Principal Timothy Villemarette attempted to amend Booker’s plan to include all sports in the split, but his attempt was ruled out of order.
Based on Friday’s vote, Boyer said “It’s just a matter of time before they’re successful” splitting all sports along select-nonselect lines.
The LHSAA also voted to approve a pay raise for officials Friday by an overwhelming 258-23 margin, avoiding any possibility of an officials strike that could jeopardize the winter and spring sports seasons.
Not approved was a proposal by Catholic-New Iberia Principal Ray Simon that would grant the executive director power to reclassify programs that historically dominate their classification.
The proposal would have identified elite teams on a per-sport basis, rather than re-classifying an entire school based on the success of one sport. It failed by a 160-110 margin.
“I expected it to pass, but I was certainly unsure and I realized that it may not,” Simon said. “I was surprised that it didn’t because all of the reaction on Thursday with the presentations was positive. That’s what accounted for my feeling about it more than anything else.”