There is a running joke at my office. “When we will have a ‘normal’ high school sports week,” I am asked.
The reality? In a world of high school sports that often revolves around football Friday nights, things are seldom normal or routine.
No week in recent memory offers a better case in point than this past week. There were games and plenty of them. There was major news before any games were played.
I tell people all the time that high school sports are a living, breathing entity — one that can be exciting, exhilarating, disappointing and/or frustrating at each turn. I think I experienced all the above last week.
The final four minutes of Walker High’s 40-38 victory over Slidell on Friday was exciting. Both teams left it all on the field.
Lester Ricard’s resignation as Walker’s coach last Monday had people questioning how the team would respond. I was in that group, which is why I opted to cover the game. When Slidell challenged, Walker answered.
How will Walker, or any other team for that matter, fare in Week 4? It is a new week, and we will see. Again, one reason I love high school sports.
The other big news was LHSAA related. Transfer quarterback Andrew Robison’s appeal to the LHSAA’s executive committee that would allow him to play at Hahnville as a senior was denied, to the dismay of many. The appeal for HHS coach Nick Saltaformaggio’s four-game suspension also was denied.
McKinley’s appeal of huge sanctions issued in July went significantly better. A fine of nearly $42,000 was cut in half and a two-year playoff ban in all sports was reduced to one year. A group of McKinley athletes ruled ineligible through administrative errors were granted eligibility.
The Robison appeal was emotional and unfolded in open session. It’s tough to see Robison told he can only play for Vandebilt Catholic, a school where he no longer feels welcome. The appeal ended with an executive session in which more questions were asked that led to a definitive vote.
Some call this a “rubber stamp” of LHSAA executive director Eddie Bonine’s decision to rule Robison ineligible under the LHSAA’s recruiting rule that prohibits “undue influence” of a player who transfers. If you believe that or that the executive committee catering to private school interests, you don’t know the LHSAA’s executive committee. The committee has just one private school representative.
Think a public school can’t be cited for recruiting? West Monroe was several years ago when current NFL lineman Cam Robinson moved from Ouachita to West Monroe as a senior, years before Bonine’s tenure. Robinson was ultimately granted eligibility. Times and precedents can change. What exactly did happen with Robison's appeal? Tough to say, but I suspect whatever took place in executive session was significant.
Don’t bash the LHSAA for the executive session. As a private organization, the committee had the right to do what it did. Frustrating yes, but legally correct.
I do credit the committee for the consideration it gave McKinley. I am glad to see that athletes regain eligibility since they played no role in administrative errors. Those who chose to transfer from McKinley can now petition for eligibility just as any other transfer student would, through their new school, and not a hardship appeal.
However, there was no process for the coaches involved in the McKinley case to appeal their one-year suspensions. Every coach on staff was suspended for a year and an appeal for them could only be made by McKinley/the East Baton Rouge Parish School system as LHSAA rules are now written.
EBR opted not to appeal for the coaches, some of whom are now seeking a legal remedy. As the Robison family is reportedly set to do.
I spoke with several coaches who believe coaches need an avenue to appeal, if their school/school system will not. And disclosure of why coaches were sanctioned. As one coach told me, noting the suspension of Saltaformaggio, “I’d like to know what happened, so we don’t do it.”
Just another week in the life.