No matter what seems to happen in high school sports, it ultimately comes back to two things these days — sportsmanship and how the games are played.
The sportsmanship part is obvious and once again comes to center stage, thanks to recent incidents involving a playoff football game and a high-profile boys basketball game.
Questions about how the games are played have nothing to do with coaching or fundamentals. In this case, it has to do with how LHSAA schools will be divided for playoff competition.
Yep, we’re back to select vs. nonselect or public vs. private schools.
Let’s tackle how the games are played first.
What happens at the LHSAA’s January convention could decide the future of high school sports in Louisiana. Or it could be a footnote to an era in which problems loom large but compromise/solutions are tough to find.
LHSAA Executive Director Eddie Bonine was given a year to find a solution for select/nonselect issues. Dividing schools for the playoffs based on metro or rural status is what Bonine settled on after working with a task force.
Can he sell it?
Bonine would like to run the metro-rural plan as a pilot program for football only next fall, cutting the number of state championships from nine to six.
But the final convention agenda is not set to come out until Friday. Area meetings across the state begin are set for the following week. That’s when Bonine and LHSCA Director Terence Williams must complete their hard sell. People have plenty of questions.
On to sportsmanship.
Altercations/confrontations are not just a Louisiana problem. Every week at least one new story surfaces about a fight or an official being attacked. One recent story involved a coach head-butting an official. Ouch.
The fact that everyone has issues should not be a cop out. There are sportsmanship guidelines, but both the schools and LHSAA need to get tougher.
We used to think “I love you” were the three toughest words to say. Now “I was wrong” or better yet “We were wrong” may top the list.
Stories like the Amite-Bogalusa quarterfinal football game should be a cautionary tale not just because of the $2,500 fines and or the fact that Amite lost its chance to compete in the semifinals.
I’ve attended many hearings, and there is a common thread in recent years. Schools say they never want something like this to happen again and or they never thought it would happen to them.
Most of the testimony comes down to one school saying what the other team and its players did wrong.
You seldom here “We were wrong.” Add in fans who believe it’s their right to get involved physically/verbally and the potential for disaster is there.
The fact that Amite and Bogalusa won’t be allowed to have fans present at their football game this fall should be a sign of things to come. Schools should post signs that explain what the grounds to remove fans are. And they should do it. When they don’t and a fight happens, the LHSAA should not let fans attend games.
There should be a zero tolerance for negative player behaviors, like cursing and unsportsmanlike acts.
The LHSAA should step in to help Amite and Bogalusa plan for other upcoming District 7-3A games against each other this season, including basketball. And the LHSAA needs to expand guidelines/tips for all basketball schools so that a Landry-Walker/McDonogh 35 incident won’t happen again.
There’s no time for anyone to pass the buck. Much needs to be done.