Louisiana High School Athletic Association Executive Director Eddie Bonine and President Vic Bonnaffee of Central Catholic praised the dialogue and vowed to keep working for resolutions on two key issues.
Ultimately, the first day of the LHSAA’s summer meeting Monday ended with no resolution in sight for a major conflict with the Louisiana High School Officials Association.
Also in question is what will happen next as the LHSAA seeks a compromise with legislators over House Bill 457, which would allow immediate eligibility for freshman crossing parish boundaries.
How much either of these issues will be revisited Tuesday when the LHSAA’s executive committee concludes at two-day meeting is in question. The second day of meetings is set to run from 8 a.m. through noon at the LHSAA office.
Stuck in between are Bonine and the LHSAA’s executive committee. Both are bound by an LHSAA constitution that only allows the full membership to make policy changes on transfers and prohibits its schools to sign contracts with officials’ groups, something the LHSOA is already working to do.
LHSOA President Paul LaRosa waited all day to get his chance to speak and sparked a long debate. He noted that some schools have signed LHSOA contracts but couldn’t cite a specific number.
“There was some great dialogue,” Bonine said. “I thought Paul did a great job explaining where his group was. We countered. The point I tried to make to him is that our schools don’t have that choice.”
When the committee went into executive session for a second time in the late afternoon to end LaRosa’s time, Bonnaffee said, “We’re at the end of the end of the day, but this is not over.”
LaRosa pointed out several times that the LHSAA’s bylaws won’t change the LHSOA’s stance, saying “Those are your rules, they don’t work for us.”
The LHSOA has noted that failure of member principals to pass modest pay raises for basketball and volleyball officials, coupled with the decision to take away travel pay for those baseball-softball officials who travel to rain out games in January led to a key breaking point.
LaRosa said baseball umpires had to be convinced to call games in the spring after the vote, noting that the officials around the state felt disrespected. LHSAA Assistant Director Keith Alexander opened the discussion by reviewing an eight-year history of pay raises that were promised and not awarded even though officials groups met the required criteria of attending workshops and passing exams. LaRosa noted that officials have gotten two raises in 25 years.
“It’s going to be my job to get the sides (officials and principals) together and to find out where the lack of respect and trust is,” Bonine said. “I got some answers to the questions about how we got to where we are now.”
There were several key exchanges between LaRosa and executive committee members. The massive turnover of principals in the state in recent years was noted as a reason why some don’t understand the history of the pay raises of the role of officials. Schools noted their problems raising money to pay officials.
When Assumption’s Niles Riche noted that $45 was a lot for a 21/2-hour football game and asked about a possible hourly wage, LaRosa noted there’s more than game time involved. The LHSOA head he attends three hours of meetings each week and that travel and other preparation has to be factored in.
Interestingly, the two sides agreed on one key point — just as the LHSOA has some officials that are better than others, the schools also have teachers of varying degrees of skill.
“I think what was accomplished was we were provided the opportunity to express the things that have been issues for our officials,” LaRosa said. “What I hope was the primary takeaway for the executive committee was that it’s about a process that is currently in place that doesn’t work for officials.
“Feeling there were no options to us we had to do something to have some element of control of the process. We got the opportunity to explain that and we got the opportunity to hear from the other side.”
Hearing from the other side was something Bonine was set to do late Monday. He told the media he was scheduled to speak with Rep. Kirk Talbot, R-River Ridge, the author of HB 457.
Talbot and others are seeking a compromise that would allow all freshmen from outside parish attendance zones to play subvarsity sports only, a rule that was in place prior to last year’s rule change that set up parish boundaries.
Executive committee members expressed reluctance to make the compromise. Bonine also sees that as a continuing process.