University High players gather around their championship trophy after beating St. Thomas More in the Division II title game Dec. 7 at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans.

LAFAYETTE — The meeting of select-school administrators and coaches ended the same way it began — with a speaker stressing that formation of the Louisiana Select Association is a means to an end, not a means to end the LHSAA as the body that governs select and nonselect schools.

In between, the group representing more than 70 of the LHSAA’s 108 select schools voted to ratify the constitution which forms the LSA, selected a CEO, a deputy CEO, approved board members and had discussions about sites and structure for 2019-20 select championship events in sports split along select/nonselect lines – football, boys and girls basketball, baseball and softball.

“I’m excited because of what we got done today,” Catholic High-Baton Rouge Athletic Director J.P. Kelly said. “Our preference is for all the LHSAA schools to come back together, and we want to work with the LHSAA on that. This is about giving our kids the best experience … one they can remember the rest of their lives and that is what it is all about. Today, we created the organization that is an affiliate to the LHSAA. Now we need to create other processes.”

The birth of the LSA during the Monday meeting at Teurlings Catholic took place six months after LHSAA member schools approved a series of proposals by TCHS Principal Mike Boyer that give select schools the right to break away from the LHSAA’s traditional championship events in those sports.

Kelly was selected as the LSA’s first CEO and will serve until June 2020. Catholic-New Iberia principal Stella Arabie was picked as the deputy CEO. Of the 71 schools on hand for the vote that took place minutes into the meeting, 66 voted to approve the LSA’s constitution. Shreveport’s Evangel Christian was the lone no vote. Four schools abstained: Ouachita Christian, Lee, McKinley and Scotlandville.

No representatives from the LHSAA were present for the meeting. When contacted via text, LHSAA executive director Eddie Bonine said he would decline comment until he sees what was approved, who voted and what discussions took place. Bonine has been wary of separate events and the LSA's formation, viewing both a step closer to separate associations for select and nonselect or public schools. 

The LHSAA executive committee charged Bonine and his staff with developing at least two plans aimed at bringing select/nonselect schools back together. The original split for football was implemented in 2013. The split for basketball, baseball and softball followed in 2016-17. Private schools make up the majority of select schools. Some charter schools, full magnet schools, partial magnet schools that draw at least 25 percent of their enrollment from outside traditional attendance zones and laboratory schools also are select schools. 

After the LSA constitution was ratified, principals and coaches moved on to a series of group break-out meetings based on their enrollment-based select division, region and based on sports.

Brother Martin principal Ryan Gallagher told the group that the UL (multiple events), the Alario Center (basketball), Tulane (football, baseball) and Southeastern Louisiana University (football, basketball) all expressed interest in hosting select championships when contacted informally. Highland Baptist’s Tim Sensley told the group that UL said it would allow select schools to use its venues at no cost, with the exception of security and other expenses, while schools also retaining money earned at the gate. Schools also pay 10 percent of the gate to the LHSAA as they do for any other playoff game. Southern Lab Director Herman Brister Jr. also noted that Southern University could also be a site alternative.

There are additional hurdles to clear. Boyer’s proposals as approved call for the higher seeded team to host the title game at its school or a neutral site both teams agree on. Kelly said all schools in each division must agree to forego hosting a title game before a site can be retained. He said the LSA would seek sponsorships that do not conflict with LHSAA sponsors to help offset title-game expenses.

“We are very close to getting all the schools to forego their right to host in football,” Kelly said. “In fact, Evangel voted against approving the constitution, but did forego the right to host in football. That is the first key piece. Some  schools who were not able to get someone to the meeting today have already done it there are a few we need to speak with.”

A straw vote of coaches/administrators in the basketball meeting favored separate tournaments for boys and girls. Schedule-related issues and calendar-week conflicts with the LHSAA’s soccer championships and nonselect girls basketball tourney are other obstacles.

“I thought some solidarity came today — waiving of rights that they had for the benefit of the group at large,” Boyer said. “I thought (that) was huge. I told them I wrote (the proposal), and I still believe in it. But I waived it. In Division I and Division II, the people that were here, were all unanimous.”

St. Charles Catholic football coach-athletic director Frank Monica added, “I think the bottom line is that most people want to see this association come back together. This is a way to give us a voice and more authority in situations that we’ve had in the past.”

Still a dome thing?

As a member of the LHSAA’s executive committee, Loyola College Prep’s John LeBlanc is charged with one extra task — polling select schools at the request of Bonine to gauge their interest in playing football championships in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome as they have in past years. LeBlanc said he would likely send that email survey to select schools next week.

“I didn’t think it was right to bring that (Superdome option) up today, because this group worked so hard on their presentation,” LeBlanc said. “Playing in the Superdome is a separate thing. At the end of the day, the select schools are finally getting organized. We don’t agree on everything, but I think was a good day.”

 Also on the board

Other board members approved were: secretary Andrew Yepson of Cedar Creek, Sensley of Highland Baptist (treasurer), Kenny Henderson of The Brighton School (proposals), Loyola’s LeBlanc (finance), Brother Martin’s Ryan Gallagher (media relations), St. Louis Catholic’s Pat Neck (football), Boyer of Teurlings (baseball), Mount Carmel’s April Hagadone (softball) and Country Day’s Mike McGuire (basketball).

Advocate sportswriter James Bewers contributed to this report.

Email Robin Fambrough at rfambrough@theadvocate.com