Now that the appeal is in the books, the LHSAA and Southern Lab have made it clear they’re ready to move on.
The saga that started month when SLHS was stripped of 2015 and 2016 Division IV select football titles and a 2014 runner-up finish isn’t likely to end now, regardless of how much both sides want it to.
More chapters are still to be written. Planned litigation on behalf of former Southern Lab coach Marcus Randall may be just the starting point, and it is a good one.
The fact Randall and his attorney Jill Craft have not received reports detailing what led to his one-year LHSAA suspension and ultimate termination by the school is a huge question that must be answered.
Because the school only had 20 minutes to present its appeal on multiple sanctions, Randall and Craft were not allowed into the hearing that was closed at the school's request. The after-the-fact announcement noted Southern Lab did appeal Randall’s suspension, and it was upheld.
The gist of speculation is that Randall illegally recruited players, something he vehemently denies. The former LSU and Glen Oaks quarterback talks proudly about being a product of the LHSAA and has defenders, including some coaches and parents of players, who believe he is a scapegoat.
Should Randall, a 10-year coach in the LHSAA, get a separate appeal? I think so. Former Belaire coach Claude Coleman got one. This is Randall’s livelihood. LHSAA Executive Director Eddie Bonine said Randall can return to coaching next year. That might be easier said than done.
Randall’s suspension was the only one made public, though the ruling stated that other coaches were suspended, some for one year and others for two, also leaving questions.
Other questions remain. Why did the LHSAA choose not to make the voting of the executive committee on the Southern Lab appeal public? The short answer — because the hearing was closed and because the LHSAA doesn't have to.
The LHSAA was legally deemed a private organization several years ago, so it doesn’t have to disclose all information. Bonine said the release of the report that led to the sanctions would have to come from Southern Lab, since it was their report. “Transparency” mentioned so often can be a selective process that leaves questions. Possible legal issues factor in.
Will schools second-guess self-reporting now? Could be.
Reducing the football playoff ban to one year was an olive branch for Southern Lab. The LHSAA is not the NCAA model by any means. But Dallas attorney John G. Long, who spearheaded the Southern Lab appeal and conducted the outside investigation that yielded the report, is among the people who think recruiting issues could increase because of the severity of the penalties.
What about investigating other sports at Southern Lab and other schools sanctioned for one sport? That can and likely will happen.
What about the trophies? Ascension Episcopal’s lobbying for the 2016 title trophy paid off. The school knew the LHSAA handbook still states that the runner-up team receives the trophy, a rule that now may be subject to change.
So Ascension Episcopal and St. Mary’s (2015) will get their trophies and medals. What about other schools in the same situation? Bonine concedes it has been done both ways. I’ll cite University High as an example. John Curtis was ordered to forfeit games, including a title-game win over the Cubs in 2013.
Weeks later, when a question about the trophy was asked, the LHSAA said no title would be awarded. Bonine said the case can’t be revisited now because of Curtis’ pending lawsuit against the LHSAA.
As Yogi Berra said, “It ain’t over till it’s over.” Whenever that may be.