LHSAA membership rejects split for now; new chief Eddie Bonine gets time to address issues _lowres

Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG -- LHSAA Executive Director Eddie Bonine, left, speaks to the members.

When is a Wednesday not just another day at the office? Moving forward, I will cite July 11, 2018, as one of those days.

In 27 years of covering the LHSAA, I have seen plenty. But did I ever expect a school to be on the receiving end of an unprecedented $41,968.14 fine and two-year all-sports playoff ban, as McKinley High was Wednesday? The answer is no.

My feelings are summed up in one word: sad. I know the sun will come up again, and life will go on. High school athletics is but a small part of what happens on this earth.

But for me and plenty of other people, high school athletes are important. So important that both the LHSAA and all its member schools owe it to the student-athletes to get it right. Sometimes, getting it right is painful.

My understanding is that the LHSAA’s investigation took six weeks. It began after eight softball players were not registered as part of the team when the Panthers reported to Sulphur for their Division I quarterfinal game against Mount Carmel.

Let me stop those who say, “Oh, McKinley … that’s a select school, so they cheat.”

Though the school has a magnet component, many of McKinley's athletes are from the traditionally talent-rich rich neighborhood surrounding the school. It's been that way for decades. The school does not have a troubling history of LHSAA sanctions.

Some parts of this saga are still unclear. As a private entity, the LHSAA is not required to divulge detailed information about the sanctions as it did as a quasi-public entity years ago. So it's easy to blame the LHSAA and the coaches who were penalized (they were not identified in the sanctions memo the media received Wednesday).

Interim athletic director/football coach Robert Signater confirmed that “multiple” coaches must be hired before the rapidly approaching 2018-19 school year begins.

I feel sad for the student-athletes, McKinley alumni and yes, even the coaches involved. Just last year, a somewhat similar situation unfolded with the Southern Lab football team.

Could a deep investigation find issues at other schools in Baton Rouge and beyond? I’m inclined to say yes, which is also a reminder about folks in glass houses not throwing stones.

Wednesday was not a good day for McKinley. The challenge now is to gear up for Thursday and get it right.

Williams leaves LHSCA

The Louisiana High School Coaches Association is in the market for a new executive director. Terence Williams, who served as the head of the LHSCA since 2015, resigned from that position prior to the Fourth of July holidays.

“Terence has some other interests in construction and real estate that he wanted to pursue,” LHSCA President Dwain Jenkins of Lutcher said. “He also has a son entering high school and I think all those things were a factor. Over the past few years the LHSCA has evolved from just being an organization that hosted all-star games. We are providing services for our members and a chance to advocate for sports, so the position may look different in the future.”

Jenkins said the LHSCA officers will meet on July 18 at the LHSAA office to discuss future options. He said the LHSAA staff, which now includes four assistant executive directors, will likely absorb some LHSCA duties in 2018-19.

Follow Robin Fambrough on Twitter, @FambroughAdv.