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LHSAA Executive Director Eddie Bonine speaks during during the House Education Committee meeting about starting high school football games.

Executive director Eddie Bonine answered some key questions and conceded that others will be answered in the weeks ahead one day after the LHSAA sent its revised list of select/nonselect schools out to its membership.

A lengthy teleconference Tuesday allowed Bonine to address a wide range of topics. Bonine moving between topics provided an unintentional but appropriate metaphor.

Why? Because the LHSAA’s revised select/nonselect schools list, at least for the time being, is a moving target as appeals take shape statewide.

Last week, the executive committee was told the breakdown was 207 nonselect and 198 select schools. By Tuesday, that number had flipped with Bonine saying the current tally was 52.1% select and 47.9% nonselect. Schools have until June 21 to submit a written appeal.

Other key facts were provided. Bonine reiterated that the select/nonselect changes impact the postseason only. Schools remain in the same districts and enrollment-based classes — something fans and even some coaches failed to grasp. And for those in the back, this system is in place for 2022-23 and could be voted down in January. 

Bonine answered two important questions: how select schools divisions will be divided and when the size of playoff brackets (most notably football) will be finalized.

Once the number of select schools is settled, football schools will be divided into four equal divisions. There will be five equal divisions for the other split sports — basketball, baseball and softball.

Football brackets should be set when the executive committee’s meets Sept. 20-22. Will there be 16-team brackets for both select/nonselect? Or another number. The LHSAA staff is studying options now.

Reporters sometimes refer to what Bonine did as “burying the lead.” The Zoom event had approximately 15 media members expecting a discussion about the changing select/nonselect lists.

Instead, Bonine started with other items, many of which address criticism the LHSAA receives. He noted a 2018 decision to close all school appeals to the public and to no longer send penalty rulings to the media.

Member schools are the only ones that can release rulings about their own sanctions. This is one of those cases where I agree to disagree but also understand the rationale.

Why would a school want to make itself look bad? My point. The flip side is that no sanctions being released gives the illusion the LHSAA is doing very little.

The discourse about the select school definition and all the select/nonselect changes has taken on that tone. Some critics claimed to have no knowledge of possible changes.

Though the anger has played well on social media in some circles, it does not match the reality, which I can back up. I was there.

The executive committee received the three possible definitions for select schools that it voted on last week during an open session April meeting. That information was sent to LHSAA member schools, one of which was forwarded it to me.

LHSAA staff set up extra chairs for both days of last week’s executive committee meeting. Bonine said only one select school principal and one coach were on hand for the meetings.

Bonine explained the rationale that made Option 2, which moves all charter schools, schools with magnet components and open enrollment parishes to the select side over the others. He correctly stated that charter schools were originally supposed to be select schools in 2013, but their status was changed.

Of the 16-5 vote to approve the definition, only five persons on the executive committee have select schools ties and one of them, president David Federico of Ecole Classique, could not vote. That indicates bipartisan support if you will.

Yes, Bonine said select/nonselect appeals had already started to trickle into the LHSAA office Tuesday. One came from a school saying it should be select, not nonselect.

Another came from a school with “magnet” in its name that is no longer a magnet school. And there was an “open enrollment” parish that says it does not operate that way.

Though the picture of what happens next for the LHSAA is not crystal clear, I do believe there is some clarity. Now we wait for the final tally.

Numbers lagniappe

Bonine provided some key “operational” numbers. During his tenure the LHSAA has held 14 sportsmanship hearings, 12 lack of administrative control hearings, revoked four LHSAA football titles and four runner-up finishes.

He said 19 coaches and other 30 athletes have been suspended for a full year.

Also, in 2021-22, the LHSAA received 720 requests for eligibility rulings and with 623 of those athletes ruled eligible. The LHSAA office processed over 1,000 school transfers in 2021-22 and 548 of those were transfers within the same school system.


Email Robin Fambrough at rfambrough@theadvocate.com