All together … now?
That was the unexpected final act\message from the LHSAA executive committee’s annual summer meeting.
The two-day meeting closed Tuesday with past president Niles Riche of Assumption High School making a motion that charges Executive Director Eddie Bonine and his staff to develop at least two proposals to bring LHSAA schools back together or prevent expansion of the split beyond the sports already split along select/nonselect lines — football, basketball, baseball and softball.
No timetable was set, but Bonine said his staff would begin working on proposals and a survey that may ultimately be similar to one completed by schools in 2013-14, the year the initial football split began.
Bonine said a new survey would poll schools, coaches and student/athletes.
“My charge is to formulate a minimum of two, if not more, proposals that will bring the association back together or to prevent any further split,” Bonine said after the meeting. “Those would be approved and disseminated to the membership and then we ask them to vote on specific proposals or none of these.”
The move played out as an emphatic counter to a presentation made early in the Tuesday meeting at the LHSAA office by select-school executive committee member John LeBlanc of Loyola Prep-Shreveport and Catholic High Athletic Director J.P. Kelly. LeBlanc and Kelly were expected to report on progress made toward implementing the separate select schools title games/events approved in January.
The duo told the executive committee that another select schools meeting is set for July 29 and select schools would like to form their own organization, a separate governance within the LHSAA.
“We’ve started very preliminary talks on a separate organization within the LHSAA — like the coaches association,” Kelly said. “It would give us the chance to get our thoughts together and it would be binding for select schools. When the select schools become organized, that will give them a better opportunity to clear up a lot of things that need to be cleared up.”
Then Kelly asked, “Has there been any movement on the part of the LHSAA to form a separate organization on behalf of select schools? Would you think that is a good idea?”
Bonine said there was no plan for a separate select schools organization. There was banter back and forth. Bonine asked about representatives from two select divisions inquiring about hosting football title games at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Questions about possible scheduling conflicts in basketball if select schools choose to play their events ahead of the LHSAA’s nonselect tournaments and events were discussed.
In the first half of his director’s report, Bonine voiced his belief that splitting off the title events hurts the student/athletes from select schools. Riche’s motion charging Bonine and LHSAA staff to formulate plans to bring schools back together followed the second half of Bonine’s report done in executive session.
“I truly believe that our championship events look like, feel like and smell like championship events,” Bonine said. “Some schools out there do have a really cool football stadium or a great baseball facility. At the end of the day, our athletes should be playing in other very nice championship venues.”
Bonine said the results of a survey conducted by former LHSAA Executive Director Kenny Henderson in 2014 recently became available when many items stored on an LHSAA server damaged in 2016 flooding were retrieved. Henderson was given direction by private schools and public schools to survey all schools.
Bonine sent that survey and its results to the executive committee members two weeks ago. He said 33 percent of the more than 260 schools responding wanted the LHSAA back together in all sports. Leaving football split and a total split polled second and third. Dual governance polled fourth.
Bonine and committee member Norman Booker of Many engaged in a brief dialogue about whether survey questions would “guide” groups toward answers. Booker, whose 2016 proposal expanded the split to basketball, baseball and softball, did not object to Riche’s motion.