It doesn’t have the allure as a Shonda Rhimes made-for-TV drama, but the whirlwind surrounding the Louisiana High School Athletic Association has a must-see quality to it.
Typically cast in the role of the bad guy, the LHSAA catches an equal amount of flack for what it does and does not do.
Just last week the LHSAA’s executive committee declined to grant a second appeal in a high profile case and initially remained mum on the organization’s seemingly inevitable move toward a split of its public and private schools.
By Friday, there was action, some of it surprising.
The executive committee was pushed into action when Gov. Bobby Jindal signed SB 633 into law, mandating third-party arbitration, when requested, in eligibility cases.
On the heels of passing a proposal saying it will abide by the new law, the committee passed what amounts to a position statement, saying it is against any additional competition split of the LHSAA.
How much will either move matter? No doubt, people will watch to find out what happens next.
Remember, rules compliance is something the LHSAA routinely does. So the decision to begin setting up ways to implement third-party arbitration is no surprise.
Will the process be ready in time to help Episcopal’s Clement Mubungirwa, whose fight for another year of eligibility as a 19-year-old helped inspire Sen. Dan Claitor’s bill remains to be seen.
The law as passed is general in nature and leaves the specifics of setting up a plan for arbitration to the LHSAA, something Executive Director Kenny Henderson and new President Vic Bonnaffee of Central Catholic-Morgan City say isn’t likely before October.
Mubungirwa plays football and soccer. Chances are, he could miss all or most of the football season waiting for an arbitration hearing.
Claitor said the biggest misconception about the law is that it was passed for all students, not just Mubungirwa. It will be interesting to see what other cases, if any, are pegged for arbitration this fall.
By passing the motion stating it is against any additional split of the LHSAA, the executive committee finally took a stand. Todd Guice of Ouachita, who stepped down as president after Friday’s meeting, said it will be the job of the committee to be proactive and educate schools about issues a deep split in competition could bring.
But will be it too little and too late?
I’m not sure how successful the LHSAA board can be when it comes to changing the minds of public school principals who favor a full split. But at least there is ammunition to work with.
Will the schools agree to a status quo, with split championships only in football, in order to ensure that key sponsors like new title-game sponsor the Allstate Sugar Bowl continue to shell out the money?
I was told by Bonnaffee that focusing on sponsor dollars was a shallow approach. With an increased number of championships to handle and/or a loss of member private schools opting to leave the association hanging in the balance, I get that.
But what about dollars and cents? Or is that dollars and sense?
The loss of sponsors like the Sugar Bowl, which has an “out clause” in the event of split, may not seem like the end of the world. It would likely change how the LHSAA conducts business.
Sponsor dollars make up a key portion of the LHSAA budget, Henderson said. If sponsors decrease, the LHSAA would likely charge schools more in dues and event entries, etc., to strike a balance. Ticket prices for championship events would rise.
Will the LHSAA score a major triumph or get caught up in some organizational train wreck?
Yes, it’s hard to look away.