LAFAYETTE — Representatives from Lafayette area schools gathered Wednesday afternoon to discuss issues facing high school athletics in Louisiana and to also meet the new man who will soon be calling the shots.
The Louisiana High School Athletic Association area meeting at the Clifton Chenier Center was designed to prepare member schools to vote for potential rule amendments at next week’s LHSAA convention in Baton Rouge.
Speaking on behalf of the LHSAA were President Vic Bonnaffee, interim executive director Jimmy Anderson and incoming Executive Director Eddie Bonine.
It was the fourth of six stops for Bonine and the LHSAA contingent, who will conclude their annual meetings Thursday in Baton Rouge and New Orleans. An area meeting in Alexandria was held Wednesday morning
Bonine spoke for approximately 30 minutes to close the meeting, and he stressed to the principals, athletic directors and coaches in attendance that he will do everything in his power to fix the private school/public school issues that have plagued the state and led to split football championships two years ago.
“I’m not a kick-the-can-down-the-road guy,” Bonine said. “… This is not a delay tactic.”
Bonine opened by saying if the school is a house, its front porch is its athletic department, and that presents an image of how the school is portrayed. He noted his experience as Executive Director of the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association and dealing with one of its well-known private school powers, Bishop Gorman.
“I had some experience to bring to the table,” Bonine said. “The committee felt that, now I’m here.”
Bonine won’t take over until early March. He acknowledged that he’s going to need some time to fix the issues prep athletics currently face — something that Bonnaffee and Anderson pleaded those in attendance to provide — but he maintained that he’s not going to be sitting on his hands in that time.
What Bonine hopes to do is get out and see the issues facing the state’s schools first hand, then form a plan to fix them.
The key agenda items have to do with classification — specifically with the split between select (private) and nonselect schools (public) and how it relates to other sports besides football. There wasn’t much discussion on those items, a contrast to other meetings.
Three proposals by Many’s Norman Booker III would split baseball, basketball and softball into five select and seven nonselect classifications, which would mean there would be 12 state champions for each sport.
“If we pass these three sets of proposals, then we’re really hamstringing Mr. Bonine,” Anderson said. “In my philosophy, we need to get football right before we take care of everything else.”
A possible solution comes in form of a proposal that would unite private and public schools and would create a 6A class formed by the 32 largest schools in the state as well as anybody who wanted to jump to that level, and then divide the remaining schools among the five other classifications.
There was really no debate or discussion,,” St. Thomas More Athletic Director Kim Broussard said. “There wasn’t any argument. … Nobody stood up and said, ‘We need to do this,’ or ‘We don’t need to do this.’ So where it’s going to go next week, I really don’t know.
“I can tell you that I felt a lot better leaving that meeting today, because going in everything was what I call silent. But after listening to these gentlemen … I felt better.”
Bonine walked toward the group of coaches/administrators who were expressing frustration with specific schools during the LHSAA’s Alexandria area meeting Wednesday morning at Alexandria Senior High.
“What school is that you said,” Bonine asked. “This is our third meeting, and this is the first time the names of schools have been mentioned. If this is the source of our problems, this is where I need to go.”
Bonine listened and wrote down names as coaches/administrators listed private school football powers John Curtis, Evangel Christian, Calvary Baptist, University High and Parkview Baptist.
One voice from the back of the room interjected, “This isn’t just about football. You’ve got Riverside Academy in basketball.” Softball also was mentioned as a sport with “issues.”
With spokesmen from Many High, including assistant principal Moses Curtis, on hand there were times when the meeting sounded a little like the Shreveport area meeting Tuesday.
Many’s Curtis took more of a low-key tone while speaking on behalf of the proposals by MHS’ Booker. Anderson said again the basketball, softball and baseball changes would lead to logistical site issues.
“Why shouldn’t we do this if it’s what best for our schools and our student-athletes,” Curtis said. “I don’t think there’s a principal out there who would have a problem with their softball team playing at 10 o’clock in the morning or needing a couple of extra days.”
Alexandria Senior High Principal Duane Urbina added, “This is what I expected. There are some issues that need to be addressed. We still have some questions, like about where we might fall in classification, that hopefully can be answered next week.”
Pineville Principal Karl Carpenter expressed a different view than many in the room.
“He (Bonine) is pretty much a straight shooter,” Carpenter said. “I look forward to meeting with him and working with him. We have to look at what’s good for our school, and what’s good for the entire state. I think we need to do what’s best for the state.”