MONROE — There was a decidedly different tone at the LHSAA’s area meeting at Neville High on Tuesday afternoon.
After a morning meeting that featured some resistance to compromise on public/private school issues in the Shreveport/Bossier City area, a total of 57 coaches/administrators in Monroe took the opposite point of view.
Compromise was something that was talked about openly, even by the authors of a proposal that could potentially help bring the association back together.
The proposal put up independently by executive committee members Ricky Durrett of Ruston, Todd Guice of Ouachita and Mickey Merritt of West Ouachita would create a 6A class for largest enrollment schools and those opting to play up in class and also would reunite public/private schools.
There was one key similarity. Those on hand for the Monroe meeting also gave incoming LHSAA Executive Director Eddie Bonine a thumbs up on his presentation.
“Our idea in doing this was to get a conversation started about bringing the schools back together,” Ruston Principal Ricky Durrett said of the 6A plan. “If people have ideas about how they want to tweak it or change it, we’re OK with that. If we need to pull it down to give Mr. Bonine time to work on something, we’re OK with that too.”
The area meeting designed to get administrators prepared for next week’s annual LHSAA convention at the Crowne Plaza in Baton Rouge was the second of six area meetings around the state. Bonine, interim executive director Jimmy Anderson and LHSAA President Vic Bonnaffee of Central Catholic are making the trek across the state, which includes meetings in Alexandria and Lafayette on Wednesday.
There was limited discussion of three proposals by Many Principal Norman Booker III that would extend the split into separate championships to sports other than football.
Booker did not attend the morning meeting in Bossier and is instead set to come to Baton Rouge for a Thursday meeting with Bonine. The sentiment favoring the split proposals was expressed in Shreveport despite his absence.
Anderson expressed his concerns about the split proposals by Booker while reviewing the agenda in Monroe.
“My voice is one of serious concern depending on what happens with these (proposals),” Anderson said. “I don’t like being held hostage any more than anyone else.
“But it’s a fact that some of our sponsors have clauses in their contracts that will allow them to pull out if there are significant changes in the LHSAA. One thing you need to understand is that the dues your schools pay make up a small percentage of the budget we use to operate. That would certainly change things for everyone.”
Bonine stuck to the same script he used at the Shreveport area meeting. He reviewed his background and his viewpoint, vowing to work to find the source of the LHSAA’s public/private school issues that prompted the football split two years ago.
“The bottom is to find out how ‘we” got to this point. Note I said we,” Bonine said.
Bonine fielded a question about public/private school issues in Nevada, where he has been the executive director of the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association. That led to the story of how Las Vegas-based football power Bishop Gorman came to play a national schedule.
As the leader of the NIAA, which is a public-school organization, Bonine said he was asked to have a conversation with Gorman about playing a national schedule for football, which the school now does.
“Contrary to popular belief, I did not kick Bishop Gorman out,” Bonine said. “But I did have the conversation with them. And you know what they (Gorman) did, they made lemonade out of lemons. That’s a school that follows rules and dots every ‘I’ and crosses every ‘T.’ It was a way to deal with that circumstance.”
Neville Principal Whitney Martin came away from the meeting with a positive feeling.
“I think I’m optimistic and not just from our new executive director but also from the principals, ADs and coaches who were in this room today,” Martin said. “We all want what’s best for our kids. We want them to have a fun, safe environment that’s competitive. We’re going to vote what’s best for our kids.”
Bonine closed by saying, “In a nutshell I ask for your support. I know I have to earn it. You’ve heard the talk. Now I have to walk the walk.”