Hahnville High School football coach Nick Saltaformaggio left Thursday’s LHSAA area meeting in Metairie a lot like many of the other 100 or so coaches and school administrators who attended: scratching his head.
“I thought we left with a lot more questions than answers,” Saltaformaggio said.
Eddie Bonine, executive director of the LHSAA, is hoping that’s not the case next week after the LHSAA’s annual convention in Baton Rouge.
Bonine closed out Thursday’s meeting — the final one on a six-city stop this week — expressing his goals the convention set for Jan. 27-29 in Baton Rouge.
“We want to walk out next week knowing we did the best we could,” Bonine said. “Whatever it is. And we’re going to work with that. We need to walk out there, agree to disagree if we need to, but walk out of there with everybody going the same direction.”
Thursday’s meeting, held in the theater of St. Martin’s Episcopal School in Metairie, lasted a little more than two hours as Bonine, Louisiana High School Coaches Association director Terence Williams and assistant executive director addressed the coaches and talked about items on next week’s agenda.
The biggest concerns were about the playoff format for football. Bonine announced Friday that the process used to approve the select-non-select split format in 2013 wasn’t constitutional. But one of the biggest concerns in Thursday’s meeting was what that means going forward if none of the classification plans on next week’s agenda, including a rural-metro proposal, passes.
Would the association return to five classifications like it was prior to the split?
Could the split return, despite its passing being called unconstitutional.
Answers to those questions were unclear.
“There are just so many things to iron out,” said J.T. Curtis, longtime football coach at John Curtis. “I admire the work they are trying to do with the metro-rural plan.
“But there are big problems and I don’t know if they can be solved equitably. I am a firm believer we should be back in five classifications and let teams play up where they would like to play and let’s just line up and play ball.
“I just don’t think you can come up with something equitable that’s going to make everybody happy.”
One of the biggest concerns in the meeting arose when a proposal was discussed that would allow Class 2A to decide in its 2A class meeting if it wants to use a split format while the other four classifications decide on their format in the general assembly. The class meetings are held Thursday and the general meeting is held Friday.
“That’s a dangerous thing, letting the 2A group decide if they want to do something different,” Rummel Athletic Director Phil Greco said.
“If you have a fractured body like that with one class deciding they aren’t going to do what everybody else does, then you don’t have an organization. I just hope we all can come back together.”
St. Charles coach Frank Monica is one of those whose team could be affected by the possible change in Class 2A.
“There seems to still be a lot of gray area,” Monica said. “There still has to be a lot of dialog before the dust is settled. But it was a very informative meeting. You’re not going to make everybody happy. It’ll be interesting to see what agenda items will be pushed the hardest next week. I have no idea.”
Neither does Saltaformaggio.
“I appreciate (Bonine) is trying to get us all on the same page,” Saltaformaggio said.
“I say let’s just go back to where we were before the split and start over again. It’s like when you have a car that isn’t working. Let’s just try to restart the car and see if we can get it back running.”
Coaches also seemed to express some concerns about the metro-rural plan, which would basically divide schools into classifications based on their proximity to metropolitan areas in the state.
One person in attendance wasn’t fond of that plan either, saying it’s basically trying to fix the split with a split.
Bonine didn’t say which plan he prefers.
“I just want to get all the information out there so that when we get to the convention people can make educated decision,” Bonine said.
“Whether they agree or disagree, it’s important that people make votes they can live with so that we’re back on the track.”
And while the playoff format is a hot topic, Bonine’s top priority for the convention is making sure principals approve a pay raise for game officials.
The LHSAA reached a deal with the Louisiana High School Officials Association last fall that helped prevent officials from walking out of games. Officials were given a raise, but now it’s up to the principals to approve the deal.
“I just hope it passes,” Bonine said.
“It doesn’t matter where you pit people to play in the playoffs if there are no officials to call the game.”
Bonine will have to wait to find out what the principals decide.
After traveling to six cities this week, with some meetings more intense than Thursday’s final stop, he doesn’t know which way principals will vote on items.
But he did learn something on his stops.
“Our attendance was up at every place we went, and I learned that there are a lot of people are concerned and passionate,” Bonine said.