We’ve all heard, “A mind is a terrible thing to waste.”
Is trying to change minds a waste of time?
It’s a fair question for all of us, including LHSAA schools, to consider as the 97-year-old organization’s issues surrounding its expanding split championships morph to new levels.
Over the past two weeks, the framework for a new “sports cooperative” deemed to be a possible alternative for the LHSAA’s select schools was released and legislation that would prohibit schools receiving public funds from belonging to an organization that divides its championship events based on select/nonselect school status.
This has not been an easy issue for the LHSAA for years. The fact other states are grappling with similar issues offers no consolation and only a few other options to consider.
For those not keeping score at home on LHSAA business, here’s a quick primer. Traditional public schools are the nonselect schools and they make up the majority of membership.
In 2013, that majority voted to split the LHSAA’s football championships along select/nonselect lines. Select schools include private schools, charter schools, magnet schools and laboratory schools and they’re in the minority in the 390-member organization.
Two months ago, the LHSAA majority voted to expand the split to basketball, baseball and softball by a 182-120 vote. The next step is almost surely a split in all sports because the majority rules.
There have been miscues along the way by all involved. You could argue the first mistake happened when the LHSAA drafted its constitution decades ago, calling for just a simple majority to make major policy changes. The mistake select schools made was pretty basic. They did not take the chance of a split seriously enough in 2012.
Past attempts to split the association had failed dating to the 1990s. No one, including then Executive Director Kenny Henderson, attempted to bring both sides together to hash out the issues at that point.
So the first split passed and over the next two years talk of expanding the split grew. If nine football trophies (5 nonselect, 4 select) was good, why not do more. There are scheduled to be 12 for the others (7 nonselect, 5 select) in 2016-17 for basketball, baseball and softball.
Current LHSAA Executive Director Eddie Bonine came in March and was given 10 months to solve a decades-old problem. It sure sounded good at the time. Bonine’s first mistake was overestimating the willingness of nonselect schools to compromise.
Bonine tried to change the minds of some on the executive committee. Ultimately, 15 of the 25 committee members voted against the added split. The membership? Not so much.
Bonine held onto the rural-metro plan as a solution far too long. I heard from coaches and administrators who didn’t like it almost as soon as it was released. Bonine tried to sell the plan and picked up some support, but not nearly enough.
The big issue? Schools wanted to choose who they could play. At an area meeting held in Alexandria in mid-January, Many High coaches basically said they didn’t want to play Notre Dame, a private-school power. No compromise there.
So where does that leave us? The legislature could intervene and possibly turn the LHSAA bylaws into state laws, even though the organization was deemed a private entity in 2013.
There could be a new association. There is almost sure to be conflict. Will anybody have a mind to give any possible solution a go?
It comes down to what the minds of those in power think matters. I can’t bet on a unified LHSAA being on the list.