Bridges are a big deal in Baton Rouge these days. When, where and how a new bridge can be built across the Mississippi River has been a point of speculation and some trepidation for months.
A group of select-school representatives constructed a different kind of bridge in Lafayette on Monday by voting to form the Louisiana Select Association. As a rule, bridges make transportation easier and connect people and services previously separated by some natural barrier.
Historically speaking, the gap that exists between the LHSAA’s nonselect/public schools and select schools, the majority of which are private schools, is not natural. The LHSAA will celebrate its 100th birthday in 2020 and for all but seven of those years select and nonselect schools competed together for championships.
But there are issues. And the formation of the LSA generates one huge question — will this bridge bring the LHSAA’s school factions together or drive them further apart, perhaps permanently at some point?
Please note the sky is not falling on the LHSAA. Most major things remain the same.
• All select schools are still part of the LHSAA and the LHSAA is the governing body for both groups, administering eligibility, rules compliance and playoffs.
• Select/nonselect schools continue to play each other in the regular and then move on to separate select and nonselect playoffs as they do now in football, basketball, baseball and softball. No other sports are impacted.
• Instead of moving to a common site for title games, select and nonselect title events will be held at other sites. The total number of select/nonselect championships does not change.
Perception is a key stumbling block now. Those on hand Monday see the LSA as a vehicle to get organized and provide structure for the select championship events in the split sports that they must implement in 2019-20. The entire LHSAA membership approved select schools taking over their playoffs in January.
While nonselect schools may see the LSA as a dual governance for 108 within the LHSAA’s 404 total schools, the select schools see it as an affiliate organization that is similar to the LHSCA or any individual coaches organization.
The LSA receives no dues and will look to the LHSAA to supply championship trophies and game balls. The LSA will then seek out sponsorships that do not conflict with the LHSAA’s sponsors to help fund its events, should they choose to contract with a site like Southeastern Louisiana in Hammond or UL in Lafayette.
Meanwhile, six weeks ago, the LHSAA executive committee charged Executive Director Eddie Bonine and his staff with formulating two plans aimed at bringing select and nonselect schools back together. The LHSAA is currently polling member schools to get their views on where the LHSAA is with its split. I like the fact that student/athletes also will be surveyed to get their views. I hope the LHSAA and its schools pay attention to the students’ point of view.
Standard complaints about recruiting (by both select and nonselect schools) and other complaints won’t likely stop, no matter how many investigations are done. One former coach told me he believes the coaches must unite to play a role in any reconciliation. Several weeks ago, another ex-coach told me the LHSAA needed three designations — select, nonselect and "all the other cheaters."
Yes, there is plenty of water under the bridge. All sides, including the LHSAA, would have to meet in the middle, if they find their way there. That is a big if right now.