More than 120 principals, coaches and officials came into an area meeting at the LHSAA office in Baton Rouge on Thursday seeking answers.
There were some answers. Gaining clarity on what to expect regarding the LHSAA’s classification or select/nonselect school issues before next week’s annual convention was tougher.
Executive Director Eddie Bonine steered clear of voicing his opinion on agenda items. Chief among those was whether the current select/nonselect football split deemed unconstitutional last week in an opinion by LHSAA attorney Mark Boyer would be in play if no other classification plan passes at next week’s LHSAA convention. Or would the LHSAA revert back to its traditional five-class plan?
The LHSAA’s annual convention, set for Jan. 27-29 at the Crowne Plaza, is expected to attract a large number of principals based on subject matter alone. The Baton Rouge meeting was the fifth of six area meetings. A meeting set for Thursday afternoon in Metairie closed out the pre-convention meetings.
“I think every piece of the state has been different,” Bonine said. “And I know the next piece in New Orleans will be different as well. You say that’s natural, and some people use the word “splintered.” That’s when it comes down to belief systems about how things should be done.
“My goal at this point is to make sure to get all the information out there so that when we get to the meeting these people are educated to make the decisions they need to make. Whether they agree or disagree, it’s important that people make votes they can live with so that we’re back on the track.”
There were a few pointed questions from the group, but the BR meeting was a stark contrast to more intense north/central Louisiana meetings the previous two days.
Once again on Thursday, Bonine insisted that his goal is to see that all classification-related proposals voted on. There were questions Bonine and LHSCA Director Terence Williams handled carefully.
The first came from Brusly Athletic Director Tait Dupont. Dupont asked if the LHSAA executive committee did not in fact approve the split football playoff plan in 2013 when they approved the agenda, even though it didn’t get into specifics.
The Dunham School Athletic Director Neil Weiner asked what would happen if no classification plan passed. Would the split playoffs be in place or the original five-class plan?
Northeast Principal Brandon Levatino asked about possible ramifications if Class 2A principals approved Many Principal Norman Booker’s 2A proposal to split football, basketball, baseball and softball.
Much like last Friday when the Bonine held a news conference to reveal Boyer’s opinion, he was noncommittal, saying that legal counsel (Boyer) and the parliamentarian (Brian LeJeune, Superintendent of Jefferson Davis schools) would help determine the answers to these questions.
Williams told the group that in addition to the select/nonselect split first for 2A schools and then for other classes (from Booker), other options would include returning to the original five-class plan (proposed by Mandeville’s Bruce Bundy), the LHSAA’s much-debated rural-metro plan seen as a select/nonselect alternative and a six-class plan tabled a year ago.
The cautious approach came a day after Bonine told groups that his opinion was that the five-class system is in place after Boyer’s legal opinion.
And once again, Bonine used the dot on a sweater analogy from a “Seinfield” episode, saying that the LHSAA is the sweater looking out for all schools and member schools are the dots looking out for their school. He stressed the importance of coming together.
“There are some solid proposals, but it’s going to take a lot of study and it’s very complicated,” Central Principal David Prescott said. “I do think all the proposals have the best intent for their community and their kids.
“It’s a personal choice for each principal. For me, it comes down to what’s best for all athletes in our state.”
Football coach Paul Distefano said he likes the rural-metro plan, saying he feels it would be best for Plaquemine.
“It’s a lot to digest,” Scotlandville football coach Robert Valdez said. “I’m still baffled by the 2A voting Thursday and how that factors into everything. I just found out Scotlandville would be select if the parish boundary rule changes. It’s not easy.”
University High Athletic Director Jill White noted, “There’s a lot to consider. I’m think I’m going to have to go through the proposals one at a time and be like everybody else and see what works best or fits best for University High School and our athletes. At this point, I don’t have any answers, but it doesn’t sound like there are any firm answers.”