Caddo Parish schools get reprieve, will not receive playoff bans _lowres


Mention the words “pilot program” and the vision of someone flying a plane may come to mind. The LHSAA’s executive committee had to determine whether or not its fledging rural-metro classification plan was ready to take off.

After more than an hour of debate the committee opted for a compromise — placing the rural-metro plan on the January convention agenda as a pilot program for football only in 2016.

(The plan would divide schools into groups of metro and rural schools -- three divisions in each -- based on their locations relative to the state's largest metro areas. It would replace the current plan using select/nonselect divisions. Here's a look at the original proposal. The LHSAA said in October the plan continues to be a work in progress.)

“I wasn’t surprised, and yes that (pilot program), was something that had come up in conversation,” LHSAA Executive Director Eddie Bonine said when asked about the move. “Pilot is a word you can throw around to mean different things. In Eddie’s world, when you establish a pilot, you also establish a time line, which in this case is one year.

“I’m good with that. I’m about moving things forward, not pushing them through. But I was given a time line, and that was one year to provide an alternative. You’ve heard the term ‘pump the brakes” and I think we did that. We’re going to put this into practice for a year and see how it works and from there possibly go into full implementation.”

The decision on what to do with the plan developed by Louisiana High School Coaches Association Director Terence Williams, and Bonine was a key component as the LHSAA closed out its two-day meeting on Wednesday at the LHSAA office.

Bonine said the plan will be tweaked a little more and a video presentation will be offered for member schools before the area meetings that are a prelude to the LHSAA’s annual convention.

Another notable item locked into the agenda was the request for pay raises for officials in various sports, a raise the LHSAA implemented this fall after a threatened officials’ strike over the summer. The executive committee did say developing standards to mandate professional improvement by officials also will be crucial moving forward.

Bonine also made a pitch to add a fourth assistant executive director to the LHSAA staff, a move he said would lighten the workload and give LHSAA assistant director Keith Alexander time to focus on coordinating officials.

“It can be difficult to manage a meeting like this because there are so many points of view,” LHSAA President Vic Bonnaffee of Central Catholic said. “But I really thought the points of view provided openness, some transparency and good dialogue, I think we had listening to come to an agreement.”

The rural-metro classification plan developed by the LHSAA came after Notre Dame football coach Lewis Cook presented a rural-metro plan his staff developed last summer to the task force formed to address the LHSAA’s split football championships.

Several executive committee members debated specifics of the LHSAA’s rural-metro plan, its research and how some schools came to be designated as rural or metro schools.

Winnfield Principal Jane Griffin, whose 2013 proposal brought about the split championships for select (private, full magnet, lab and some charter schools) and nonselect (traditional public schools) groups, was among those with questions.

“Not everyone believes the (playoff) system is broken,” Griffin reminded the group. “But I do think this (rural-metro) plan has some merit. I need to know more about it before I talk in favor of it.”

Former Ouachita Principal Todd Guice reminded the group that the LHSAA membership gave Bonine a year to resolve issues with the split at its 2015 January meeting. That fact ultimately played into the decision to propose rural-metro football pilot program.