The smile on the face of Mentorship Academy Principal Robert Webb Jr. said it all.
After a brief presentation Thursday morning, the LHSAA executive committee granted the downtown school membership, ending a week-long saga that began with the school’s athletic programs being suspended because of the school’s reorganization.
“On a scale of 1 to 10, I’d say I feel like a 15 now,” Webb said. “We’re very fortunate that the LHSAA had this meeting (Thursday) so we could do this. It’s by the grace of God really.”
The Mentorship ruling and the decision to grant former Destrehan quarterback Marquise Darensbourg eligibility at East St. John on Oct. 1 helped highlight the LHSAA’s executive committee meeting held at the LHSAA office.
LHSAA Executive Director Eddie Bonine extended his congratulations to Webb afterwards. The school paid its membership fee and bond to play football at the time of the meeting.
With the membership approved and fees paid, Class 2A Mentorship’s season-opening football game at Central will go on as scheduled at 7 p.m. Friday. The Mentorship volleyball team can also resume its schedule.
Bonine ruled Mentorship no longer had a valid LHSAA membership a week earlier. The school was originally two schools under one roof, and LHSAA membership for one of the two schools was granted in 2013.
Last year, school officials opted to close the science and technology school that was granted LHSAA membership. Webb took the blame that Mentorship did not inform the LHSAA of the change in order to ask for membership change.
The Darensbourg appeal prompted a lengthy discussion. At one point, committee members made separate motions to overturn and uphold Bonine’s decision to rule the junior ineligible. Neither motion garnered a second.
Ultimately, the committee opted to grant Darensbourg eligibility Oct. 1, one year from the date that he moved into the ESJHS school zone with his father because of a financial hardship.
The case was complicated because Darensbourg continued to attend Destrehan for several months after the move. Darensbourg started 13 of 14 games for Class 5A runner-up Destrehan last fall as a sophomore and passed for 1,396 yards and 14 touchdowns. He also rushed for 595 yards and seven more TDs.
A change in custody that ESJHS officials said was made in an attempt to meet LHSAA guidelines for eligibility also complicated the case. Written statements by Destrehan stating that there were conflicts over playing time also was cited, along with some comments the junior made to media, which the family said were misconstrued.
The committee also granted eligibility to Ellender’s Da’vontavean Martin, pending an administrative transfer approval between Terrebonne Parish schools by a 12-9 margin. Three other eligibility appeals were denied. So was Calvary Baptist’s appeal to grant eligibility to a student involved in a sportsmanship violation at last spring’s LHSAA State Track meet.
Bonine said afterwards that the Darensbourg and Martin cases probably should have been handled by the LHSAA’s hardship committee.
“I think that’s something we’ll have to look into moving forward,” Bonine said. “I believe this committee’s job is more about governance.”
Bonine’s report to the committee covered several topics. He stressed that his mission is to take the membership’s edict to follow LHSAA’s rules to heart. Bonine said several rules, including the LHSAA’s parish boundary rule for eligibility, need to be “cleaned up.”
The LHSAA executive director said steps need to be taken to assure that adults/coaches are held accountable for their roles in violations.