If you asked me six months ago what the LHSAA’s biggest concern would be this summer, I wouldn’t have hesitated.
The response would have been select/nonselect schools and whether the LHSAA’s split championships would extend beyond football. No contest, right?
None of us knew “no contest” would take on an entirely different meaning by mid-July.
The Louisiana High School Officials Association’s executive committee is scheduled to meet with LHSAA Executive Director Eddie Bonine and LHSAA assistant executive director Keith Alexander, who coordinates officials, in a closed session set for 1 p.m. Sunday at the Crowne Plaza.
How and when LHSAA football and volleyball teams start their 2015 seasons is at stake.
Will officials refuse to work? Can the LHSAA meet the LHSOA’s demands for a contract that stipulates pay raises and other concessions? Is there a possible solution or compromise?
The way both sides have stated their cases in the media over the past week doesn’t give me an indication that any of the above listed options will work.
For me, the bottom line is this: Do something that allows the fall season to start on time with qualified officials. I don’t care what the solution is. I’d take a compromise or a specially called meeting of principals, but I know it’s not that easy.
I’m in favor of officials getting pay raises and a structure for future increases. Bonine is too. How do both sides get there?
Tons of emotion spill out on both sides. Why? Because they care, and I’d like to think they care about the student/athletes as well as their interests. You have good people on both sides of this issue.
Two examples perhaps illustrate the way both sides feel.
LHSOA past president Bryan Greenwood sent me an email early Saturday morning. He compared a string of LHSAA broken promises for pay raises with a Peanuts cartoon. You know the scene; Lucy promises to let Charlie Brown kick the football. Then she pulls it away at the last second.
Here’s Bonine’s take. He’s been on the job 120 days. Officials are recounting 25 years of issues with the LHSAA. They feel slighted and disrespected.
That’s not Bonine’s history, and he’s offered to make changes within the LHSAA constitution’s framework, something the LHSOA has heard too many times before. It is a little like holding a second spouse accountable for problems that led to a previous divorce.
One thing both sides have learned is their history with each other is not exactly what they thought it was. One LHSOA rallying point was that officials have received just two small pay raises in 25 years.
An anonymous source citing past LHSAA handbooks that list fees for officials each year, shows five raises in 25 years. The Advocate’s archives documented three of those raises in 1995, 2007 and 2011.
LHSOA President Paul LaRosa and others noted that at one point officials went 15 years between pay raises. Well, 12 years is pretty close and explains why the 2007 pay increases were larger than those before and since.
In turn, through Bonine’s research, the LHSAA executive committee now knows the LHSOA wasn’t vetted and approved like two other affiliate groups, the Louisiana High School Coaches Association and Louisiana High School Athletic Directors Association.
LHSAA President Vic Bonnaffee of Central Catholic contacted me Saturday morning to explain his views and to say the LHSAA has to do better by its officials and principals. He says time is needed to do that. Of course, time is something the LHSOA has not wanted to give.
Bonnaffee explained that Bonine heads the executive branch of the LHSAA and has power to do many, but not all, things, such as pushing through a pay increase. The LHSAA principals are the legislative branch that votes and makes policy like the House of Representatives and Senate.
Failure to educate principals properly, including those on the executive committee, is one key flaw, Bonnaffee said. He points out an average of 70 new principals join the LHSAA each year. So if you promise a pay raise for officials in two to three years, by the time there’s a vote to do it, the majority of the principals don’t know about the promise for pay raises and the rationale behind it.
Bonnaffee and Bonine said they want the process cleared up so the LHSOA is treated just like the LHSCA and LHSADA, complete with a spot on the LHSAA executive committee.
That’s not going to happen overnight. Meanwhile, the start of the 2015 season gets closer and closer.
Follow Robin Fambrough on Twitter: @FambroughAdv