After spending most of two days on the road following the LHSAA contingent through three area meetings, I gained a new appreciation for a number of things.
Surely no one is surprised to hear that no slam-dunk solution for the LHSAA’s private vs. public school issues came to light.
I didn’t expect one. What I did expect was raw emotion as coaches/administrators discussed their feelings and the issues. There was plenty of that.
There were two things I wanted to see during area meetings in Bossier City, Monroe and Alexandria. First, I came to see incoming Executive Director Eddie Bonine in action as he met many principals and coaches for the first time.
Bonine exudes this larger-than-life presence for good reason. He told the group at Bossier City’s Airline High on Tuesday that he’ 6-foot-5, weighs 300 pounds and wears a size 13 shoe.
For the most part, Bonine stuck to his script that included introducing himself to each group along with his vow to get to the source of the LHSAA’s issues.
Bonine proved he could improvise by grabbing a note pad Wednesday morning in Alexandria and writing down the names of the football powers and one basketball power that coaches/administrators on hand saw as being at the heart of the issue.
Next Bonine talked about meeting with those schools and others individually. He’s wasting no time getting started.
He’s already set to meet Thursday with Many Principal Norman Booker III at the LHSAA office. Booker, of course, is the author of three proposals to expand the split beyond football to basketball, baseball and softball.
Bonine, who officially takes over in early March, is set to meet with several key legislators before next week’s LHSAA convention.
The second thing I wanted to see was the response of the north Louisiana schools as they listened to Bonine, interim executive director Jimmy Anderson and LHSAA President Vic Bonnaffee of Central Catholic.
Some were skeptical as they listened to each speaker. With representatives from Many on hand at two meetings, talk of expanding the split and why the football split works for them was notable. Agree with it or not, those were the views expressed.
Yes, the perception is different. The demographics are different, which is why Thursday’s meetings in Baton Rouge and New Orleans likely will represent the opposing viewpoint.
The thing I liked most was Bonnaffee referring to the LHSAA as a coach- and athlete-driven organization. That’s a refreshing change from recent years when it was called a principal’s organization. I liked that Bonine reminded coaches and principals on hand that they were the LHSAA.
Yet as I drove back to Baton Rouge on Wednesday, I pondered the other reality that will be put to the test when member schools vote next week. I still consider this battle over how titles are divided up to be more of an adult issue than a student/athlete issue.
Some call this a North vs. South thing. Others see it as public schools vs. private schools or a urban areas vs. rural areas thing.
Can all those principals see the big picture, which includes 386 schools, before voting? Or will they vote strictly based on what’s best for their individual school? There is a difference.
My travel for now is over, but the LHSAA remains at a crossroads.