MONROE — LHSAA Executive Director Eddie Bonine definitely had a tale of two cities.
After a volatile meeting in the morning in Bossier City, the afternoon meeting at Monroe’s Ouachita Parish High took on a different tone, though the LHSAA issues regarding its split football championships were evident.
Like the morning meeting, the afternoon meeting began with principals questioning last Friday’s news conference in which Bonine announced that new LHSAA attorney Mark Boyer issued an opinion saying the 2013 vote to the football playoffs along select/nonselect school lines violated the LHSAA’s constitution.
Several Monroe area principals expressed their views on Friday’s events. Bonine and Boyer stopped just short of saying it would send the LHSAA back to its original five-class system.
Mangham Athletic Director Thomas Tharp was the first to question the news conference and ruling.
The author of the football championships, Winnfield Principal Jane Griffin, made her points in interviews afterwards.
“I was very surprised,” Griffin said of Friday’s events. “I am not one who sits at my desk waiting for emails. I had no warning about it (legal opinion), and I don’t buy in because my proposal was not about classification, it was about playoffs.
“So it was not a classification issue, plus it was vetted after the fact to the tune of a $10,000 bill. A lawyer vetted it and said it was legal. ”
Bonine said during the Friday news conference that the 2013 opinion Griffin mentions was based on questions about one part of the constitution. Bonine said that Boyer’s opinion is based on another part of the constitution that requires the executive committee to approve any classification proposal that involves two or more classes.
A review of the agenda included LHSCA Director Terence Williams explaining the LHSAA’s rural-metro plan for dividing schools, a possible alternative to dividing schools by nonselect (traditional public) and select (private, magnet, most charter and laboratory schools). There also was a reminder from assistant executive director Keith Alexander to approve pay raises for officials that were put into practice last fall. There was no negative feedback regarding the officials pay raise.
The rural-metro playoff proposal was another matter. Griffin said she couldn’t go along with it because her school would be forced to play much larger schools.
West Ouachita Athletic Director Joey Pender said, “At West Ouachita we really like the metro-rural stuff. I was on that (task force) committee. A guy from New Orleans said if a kid quits his school he’s got 15 other places to go. If a kid quits at a Mangham or a West Ouachita, they don’t have anywhere to go.”
Mangham Athletic Director Thomas Tharp called the rural-metro proposal a stop-gap move.
“I think it (rural-metro proposal) addresses the concerns for some people but not for others,” Tharp said. “I hope I’m wrong, but I think if it were to pass it would be just another Band-Aid move that would eventually put us right back where we are.”
The range of responses didn’t faze Bonine.
“I think it speaks to the state of Louisiana where each area has its own concerns,” Bonine said. “And they have their own ways of portraying messages. Alexandria’s will be it’s way . It’ll be the same in Lafayette, Baton Rouge and New Orleans.
“With 10 being the best we could do, I thought we were a solid seven or eight. I thought it was a good day.”