Fambrough: Questions abound and little time for LHSAA to find answers _lowres

Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG -- LHSAA Executive Director Eddie Bonine

“Under construction” is the phrase that describes where the LHSAA stands with its version of a metro-rural classification plan.

Executive Director Eddie Bonine said he’s not upset that the executive committee asked for a few days to submit tweaks to the plan.

Bonine and LHSCA Director Terence Williams presented the plan to the committee during a video conference Wednesday. Executive committee members have until Tuesday to submit their suggestions to LHSAA President Vic Bonnaffee of Central Catholic-Morgan City.

“I’m not discouraged, in fact I think it’s a good thing,” Bonine said. “Once we get those suggestions, we’ll go back to the ‘white board’ and make the changes.

“We expected to get questions. If anything, I’m encouraged by what we heard and talked about.”

The LHSAA plan that Williams did much of the research on is designed to lessen tensions between the LHSAA’s public and private schools that forced split football championships in 2013.

Bonine said Williams is in the process of distributing copies of the plan to members of the executive committee and the Task Force that Bonine formed last spring to come up with a solution to the LHSAA’s public vs. private schools issues.

“One of the first things I did was point out this was not an executive committee meeting,” Bonnaffee said. “It was a presentation that I listened to as a principal in order to gain an understanding, rather than listening to it to offer a rebuttal.

“My final thought was: ‘Send me a copy of this so I can look it over for a couple of days in order to understand it more and may come up with some suggestions.’ I think some people did listen more for rebuttal and expressed their feelings.”

The first rural-metro plan came from Task Force member Lewis Cook, head football coach and athletic director at Notre Dame-Crowley, over the summer. Bonine said the LHSAA plan includes perhaps 25 percent of Cook’s plan. There would be between 190 and 200 schools each in the metro and rural divisions.

Other states, including Arkansas, have utilized the same idea. In most cases, schools located in metropolitan areas wind up being bumped to higher classifications because they have a larger population base to draw from.

The LHSAA plan would have the schools play together in districts and separate for playoffs, much like the private and public or select/nonselect schools do now, leading to nine football championships. The LHSAA metro-rural would call for six football champions.

Bonine and Williams have acknowledged there will be questions about where some schools are placed and said those questions can be addressed individually.

“This is not a finished product,” Bonnaffee said. “Because it is so different, there are rules in the LHSAA handbook that can’t be applied to it. There need to be tweaks.”

Attempts to apply current roles and questions about the disparity in the size of schools in different sections of the plan were two of the concerns cited. Similar concerns were crucial when the original split plan passed in 2013.

“There are some who are determined to split this thing, not just for football, but for all sports,” Bonine said. “And there are people who genuinely want to see the schools come together.

“I don’t know that you can do a lot to change the minds on either side. It’s the people in the middle we want to reach.”

Bonnaffee added, “I have no interest in something that would promote bigotry or discrimination. As a person who has been involved with the LHSAA for 45 years I’d like to find something equitable for all student/athletes. This is one alternative.”