Since he was chosen as the LHSAA’s new executive director in December, Eddie Bonine has asked for time to come up with a solution to best fit the issues facing high school sports in the state.
He was granted that wish Friday as the LHSAA’s annual convention concluded at the Crowne Plaza in Baton Rouge.
That vote of confidence came in a unique way. Principals voted down one of three proposals, by Many High Principal Norman Booker III,aimed at widening the select/nonselect split championships.
After his proposal for a baseball split failed by a 161-82 margin, Booker withdrew his proposals to split softball and basketball. Two other proposals addressing the split were tabled, giving Bonine a year to come up with solutions for the LHSAA’s private vs. public school conflict.
“They’re going to give Mr. Bonine a chance to do things that need to get done,” Abbeville Principal Ivy Landry said. “There’s a new sheriff in town, and any time you’ve got a new sheriff, he usually tries to make his statement, and I think he’s going to do that.”
The clock will start ticking March 1 when Bonine, the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association executive director, takes over in Louisiana.
“Now the pressure’s on him,” Carencro Principal Ken Roebuck said. “Bottom line is, he’s got to perform now. This meeting next year, the honeymoon will be over.”
Before the voting members decided whether to table or pursue the propositions laid out in front of them, Bonine took the podium and spoke for roughly 20 minutes, asking for a final time to be allowed an opportunity to come up with solutions.
During that stretch, he outlined a timeline. Forty-five days after he takes over, Bonine said, he plans to assemble a committee of principals, athletic directors, coaches and possibly legislators to come up with a plan within six months that can be scrutinized for a few more months before a January 2016 vote.
“It gives us some time to beat it up, erase, change, do what we need to, so when we come back to this meeting, we’re ready,” Bonine said. “Is everybody going to agree? No. But I want to get the bulk of you to at least move this thing forward for what I feel is in the best interest, and what you feel is in the best interest, for all of our students.”
Booker’s argument was persuasive.
“Mr. Bonine and the executive committee have asked us to be patient and have blind trust,” Booker said. “I respect that. I would like to ask you guys to have blind trust in the principals of this association, and without any other influence or tabling of these matters, allow them to vote on these proposals. Then, Mr. Bonine, you will have a more accurate idea of what we really believe.”
The idea had merit to some of those in attendance.
“I’m an adamant believer that, if you’re giving the boys an extra opportunity to share and be part of a championship, the girls deserve it, too,” Roebuck said. “Volleyball deserves it, softball deserves it, soccer deserves it. If it’s right, it’s right for everybody. If it’s wrong, it’s wrong for everybody.”
Hahnville Principal Ken Oertling offered a pivotal impromptu rebuttal before the vote on Booker’s baseball split proposal that swayed momentum in Bonine’s favor.
“We should give this man … and this executive committee an opportunity to make changes and to propose changes to this organization to where we won’t be fixing what we’re breaking by splitting the entire organization,” Oertling said.
A large sticking point was that the further split would create 12 championships for the other sports.
“I think we saw a watered-down version of the (football) state championships,” Landry said. “Having been both a public and private school principal, it’s not good.
“We basically need to bring everything back together, and by stopping what Mr. Booker had on the plate, it basically stopped what was going on.”