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

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

BOSSIER CITY -- It started with LHSAA Executive Director Eddie Bonine offering “State of the LHSAA” remarks.

But the first pre-convention area meeting for LHSAA principals held at Airline High School on Tuesday morning was dominated by principals and coaches telling Bonine what they thought.

For starters, Bonine was told that the LHSAA and media have slanted perception to try and force member schools to come back together instead of continuing or even expanding split championships along select/nonselect guidelines.

Those on hand said they questioned the events that transpired last week, including an LHSAA press conference last Friday when Bonine announced that a new legal opinion deemed the split passed for football in 2013 to be unconstitutional.

Finally, principals and coaches told Bonine they want other sites considered for football championships other than the Mercedes-Benz Superdome if using the New Orleans site limits the number of championships.

Bonine’s told the group about increasing the budget for investigations and other things the LHSAA is trying to do to the bridge the gap between of distrust between schools and noted “We need to be together on this.”

The reactions raised more questions than a call for togetherness.

“The perception is the powers that be … the LHSAA … wants the association back together,” Benton Principal Mitch Downey said. “They don’t want a split because they feel like it’s a perceived black eye on their part because the association split under their leadership.

“It’s a matter of trust and there are questions about the rationales used to explain why the split is not legal. Or why there are threats from the legislature. There’s all kinds of reasons why we can’t be separate and not reasons for it. That’s my opinion.”

Many football coach Jess Curtis noted, “This (split) has passed the membership twice. My frustration is it’s always that angle – the split is dead. Everywhere it was front page news. Evidently that is not the truth. I’d like to see more of our side of it out there and we have a side. There are a lot of people out there who like the split and want it to continue.”

Parkway football coach David Feaster called threats from the legislature, limits on time at the Superdome and other things as excuses for trying to get away from the split.

During one confrontation, Bonine said the press conference last week was a way to get “in front of” constitutional questions raised by the LHSAA’s new attorney. He was told the press conference looked like an attempt to spin another reason for doing away with the split.

“I apologize for that and I’ll apologize for that at the other meetings,” Bonine said.

The meeting time allowed for a short review of the actual agenda itself, though LHSCA Director Terence Williams got to explain the rural-metro plan that could replace the split if passed.

Many Principal Norman Booker said he likes parts of the rural-metro plan but there are questions. “The one thing about select and nonselect is you know exactly what it is,” Booker said.

Booker is an advocate of the split stands by his plan to split Class 2A in major sports. He would like to see the proposal come to a vote for other classes, if the constitutional questions are resolved.

“Over the past year I do think Mr. Bonine has got one side of the story more than the other as well as the press,” Booker said. “It’s good for us to be able to voice our opinion in a forum such as this and shed some light on things we’re considering and happy to work with.

“I think the executive committee needs to step up and get that (constitution questions) corrected. The membership voted on something and I think the constitution should be changed to reflect that.

“I want what’s good for all students and we’ve done that for three years now in football. There are other kids out there who are faced with the same obstacles as football has been. I want it fair for everyone.”