Rod Walker: Likely 'end of the LHSAA as you know it' after special vote; select schools likely to leave _lowres

Advocate staff photo by SHERRI MILLER -- Stephen Kelly (10) runs by Brantley Mock (15)during the De La Salle vs. Country Day high school basketball game at De La Salle high school in New Orleans on Friday, Jan. 15, 2016.

In boxing terms, the vote in January by principals of schools in the LHSAA was the standing eight count.

Wednesday’s vote was the knockout.

The vote in Wednesday’s special session — keeping intact the January vote of a split playoff format for basketball, baseball and softball — was likely the end of the LHSAA as you know it.

Select schools will more than likely pack their bags and leave the association and form their own league.

There were talks about it in January, but expect those talks to pick up even more now.

“I think as principal of a Catholic school, we will have to continue to pursue all our options,” said De La Salle principal Paul Kelly. “Today’s vote made a very strong statement. It’s our job; and in fairness to all the kids in the state, we need to continue to look at all options.”

And the changes could come even sooner than you think.

“I’d expect things to start moving pretty quickly,” said J.T. Curtis, principal and football coach at John Curtis. “I don’t think it will happen for September. But I think it will be in the works and ready to roll pretty quickly. I think by the end of the next school year something will be formulated if they are going to do it.”

If select schools leave the LHSAA, it would be a big blow to the association.

LHSAA executive director Eddie Bonine admitted after Wednesday’s vote that he was concerned. It would be a huge blow to the budget (he estimated it about $1 million) if the 120 or so select schools currently in the association all bolted.

Maybe the Louisiana legislature will intervene and get everyone back playing together.

But Wednesday’s vote was another strong indication that most of the schools in the state don’t want to.

This was a first round knockout.

It took just one round of voting to see that 56.5 percent of the principals wanted to stick with the plan voted on in January that would add basketball, baseball, and softball to the split playoff format that has already included football for the past three seasons.

An even more impressive number was 306. That’s how many principals cared enough to drive to Baton Rouge in the summer when they could have been vacationing somewhere with their families. (Three principals even cared enough to show up and abstain from voting. No, I can’t figure that one out.)

Norman Booker, principal at Many High and the guy who authored the proposal to split, knew that was perhaps a good sign.

“I was one of the last ones to find a seat, so I was happy,” Booker said afterward.

It was obvious early on which way this vote was headed. The vibe in the room was that the principals didn’t want to have to make this special trip, but they came to make sure their January vote stood.

It didn’t help that there were way too many unanswered questions on the other four proposals principals could have voted on.

One well thought-out alternative would have had a better chance of getting voted on than four choices with plenty of question marks. Instead, principals were stuck with four choices that nobody seemed to have a clear and full understanding of.

“I think the executive committee and director need to support this decision and make it work to the best of our ability,” Booker said. “If things need to be tweaked down the road, let’s tweak them down the road. But let’s not keep revisiting the same thing over and over.”

The majority of the principals have voted loud and clear, twice, that they prefer a split playoff format.

Now it’s up to Bonine and the LHSAA to somehow make 12 state championships in basketball, baseball, and softball work, along with the nine state championships for football.

“That’s our charge, and we’ll do it,” Bonine said.

Just how many member schools Bonine school has to make it work for remains to be seen.

But all indications are that Wednesday’s vote to keep the split format will actually end up splitting the LHSAA.

“It’s not that I think we are for a new organization,” Curtis said. “But I think they have forced our hand into that.”

Curtis’ school has been with the LHSAA for over 40 years. But chances are his school won’t be a part of the organization four years from now when the LHSAA turns 100 years old.

And there likely will be plenty of others.

“That’s the reality of where we are,” De La Salle’s Kelly said. “And for the first time in a while, we have to really come to terms with it and face that reality.”

The reality is that principals voted not to change. And because of that, there likely will be some major change. Unless the LHSAA can somehow get back on its feet after what may have very well been the knockout punch.