It was a tale of two different meetings for incoming LHSAA Executive Director Eddie Bonine on Tuesday.
Bonine met face-to-face with member principals for the first time at a morning area meeting in the Shreveport area and then at an afternoon meeting in Monroe.
The meetings, designed to help principals prepare for next week’s LHSAA convention set for the Crowne Plaza Jan. 28-30, also gave Bonine a taste of Louisiana’s public/private school issues.
Three proposals that would extend the LHSAA’s split championships beyond football to also include basketball, softball and baseball were championed by some at the Shreveport meeting at Airline High in Bossier City.
There was more talk of compromise at the Monroe meeting at Neville High. More than 90 coaches/administrators attended the Bossier meeting, while 57 were on hand in Monroe.
“In two meetings, I’ve learned about the passion everybody in Louisiana has for education-based high school athletics,” Bonine said. “I’m sure I’ll see even more of that (Wednesday) in Alexandria and Lafayette.
“I don’t want to push something through. That’s a quick fix. I’d rather move things through at a slower pace and have something everybody can live with.”
Area meetings continue at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday at Alexandria Senior High and 1:30 p.m. at the Chenier Center in Lafayette. Bonine, interim executive director Jimmy Anderson and LHSAA President Vic Bonnaffee of Central Catholic are touring the state for the area meetings that conclude Thursday in Baton Rouge.
Many High Principal Norman Booker III did not attend the Shreveport meeting and is instead set to meet with Bonine on Thursday in Baton Rouge. However, Booker’s proposals to extend the split were lauded even though Anderson and Bonine asked for time to come up with a unified solution.
“I’ll tell you this is something we don’t need right now,” Anderson told the Shreveport group. “We’ve alienated some people. We need to go back and mend some fences with people. This can cause major problems with the legislators and our sponsors.
“We need to keep those people on our side. We need to give Mr. Bonine time to work and put his thumb print on things.”
When Anderson mentioned logistical issues, such as having 12 playoff brackets counting the select/nonselect additions, Parkway High football coach David Feaster noted that the response was similar to what was heard before the football split. Feaster boldly said Shreveport would take on hosting any championships New Orleans or other sites wouldn’t want.
Anderson noted in the afternoon meeting that softball, for example, would go from a 56-team tourney to a 96-team event. Anderson again mentioned the potential loss of sponsors with contract clauses allowing them to opt out of contracts if the LHSAA split grows beyond football.
Many assistant principal Moses Curtis called the sponsorship issue and mention of intervention by the legislature as “scare tactics.”
“I don’t see any reason why we shouldn’t move forward with this,” Curtis said. “If we lose those sponsors, I feel sure there are other sponsors who will step forward and want to sponsor the LHSAA.”
There was little talk about the split proposals and more about compromise in Monroe. The three authors of a proposal that would unite schools and also bring in a new 6A top class took the lead, noting that they were fine with others amending it, including a provision that would use a 1.5 multiplier to classify private schools.
“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.”
Bonine talked about working to find the source of the LHSAA issues.
“In a nutshell I ask for your support,” Bonine told the Monroe group. “I know I have to earn it. You’ve heard the talk. Now I have to walk the walk.”