By now, most people know the LHSAA’s executive committee took an unorthodox step Wednesday by granting its retroactive approval to the 2013 select/nonselect split football championships.
This “fix” puts the original split on solid procedural ground and opens the door for the split to expand to basketball, softball and baseball as soon as Friday.
You could say the LHSAA has reached another proverbial fork in the road. There are other proposals to consider, including one to put the schools back in their original five-class configuration.
But depending on what happens Friday, you also may put a fork in the LHSAA as we know it. It’ll be done.
The organization will go on, but its method of operation may have to change. Its membership could change. And those who believe the split will stop with just the sports mentioned above, I’ve got some swamp land to sell you for a housing development.
Here’s my biggest issue with the whole situation. What has been sold to the membership as a solution really is not.
Instead of solving the issues that led to the split and being proactive regarding future changes in education/athletes, the LHSAA membership has elected to throw trophies at it.
I said there is no “I” in team and no “I” in LHSAA last Sunday. But numerous times on Wednesday I heard principals, including Many’s Norman Booker, talk about doing what is in the best interest of “their” students.
What about the best interest of all students and what about the future of the LHSAA?
There’s a litany of reasons why this is sad. If the LHSAA had been formed by only public schools nearly 100 years ago it would be one thing. That’s how many states are.
But Louisiana has a unique culture in which the parochial school system existed before the public system did. Private schools were among founding members of the LHSAA.
There will be inevitable questions about the future of the LHSAA and what lies ahead for its new executive director, Eddie Bonine.
When Bonine was hired, he was seen as a bright light and a breath of fresh air. He was determined to be a leader and was charged last January with developing some solutions to the select/nonselect issues.
Things didn’t go as planned. Though it remains on the agenda for now, the rural-metro alternative to the split developed by Bonine and LHSCA Director Terence Williams didn’t gain the traction they thought it would.
I felt bad for Bonine. He asked for a delay on all split proposals and asked for a meeting next month to develop solutions during the Wednesday meeting and got nothing.
Bonine’s press conference that announced attorney Mark Boyer’s legal opinion which deemed the 2013 split unconstitutional prior to Wednesday vote may have backfired.
As was noted, Bonine was told to enforce the rules and has worked to do that. As we now know there are problems and contradictions in those rules. It’s a tangled mess. I’m not sure what Bonine’s next move will be.
What happens next for the LHSAA? There are possibilities.
Can everyone live happily ever after if the split expands? The public schools who are the majority in this democratic vote can.
But what about the private schools? The Dunham School’s Neil Weiner came up with a compromise plan that made the rounds on Twitter Wednesday night. It may have merit, but if the split expands on Friday would anyone consider it?
Will private schools remain in the LHSAA? Talk of forming a separate association has softened to a whisper but hasn’t gone away. And if there would be another association, would that be best for Louisiana?
Questions about sponsorships, what future championships would look like and possible legislative intervention also loom.
Right now the Allstate Sugar Bowl is the sponsor of all LHSAA championship events, not just the football championships. The Sugar Bowl representatives made it known that they have a clause to opt out if the split expands beyond football.
Get another sponsor you say? Easier said than done, especially given the negative impact this situation has had on the LHSAA’s image.
Principals and coaches at several area meetings last week said they weren’t concerned about legislative action. Remember, public and private school educators were called to the Louisiana Legislature in 2013 after the split vote happened and told to resolve their differences.
Is there any reason to think legislators are less interested in the LHSAA’s structure than they were three years ago? I don’t think so.
Finally, there’s the “championship experience.” It’s the chance for LHSAA athletes to be showcased at college/pro venues. For football, it’s always been a finals thing but for basketball, softball and baseball it’s been a semifinals-finals thing.
One criticism of the regional basketball tournaments the LHSAA dabbled in for 2012 and 2013 was that the teams in the semifinals were cheated out the championship tournament experience.
If the split expands to a situation where you have seven nonselect and five select champions for basketball, baseball and softball it may be feasible to do finals only. Could that be an issue?
I’m well aware that the LHSAA vote is a democratic process in which the majority rules. Some public school principals previously voiced opposition to the split. How the majority may rule in this case still remains to be seen.
Whether these decisions will ultimately be in the best interest of high school sports in Louisiana is a big question. There is no shortage of questions and perhaps not enough answers.