That was LHSAA executive director Eddie Bonine’s message to New Orleans area principals and athletic officials gathered Thursday at St. Martin’s School to review and discuss agenda items scheduled for vote at the association’s annual convention meeting that begins Wednesday in Baton Rouge.
A series of proposals by Teurlings Catholic principal Michael Boyer to separate the select schools state championship events in football, basketball, baseball and softball away from the LHSAA’s traditional collective venues has created a buzz in advance of the three-day meetings scheduled for the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Baton Rouge.
Bonine told a group of about 75 principals and athletic administrators that he favors forming another school relations committee to study and seek possible solutions and ramifications to the ever-expanding quandary the association has faced since it split the major sports championships into select and nonselect brackets that basically follow a division of private and public schools.
“Can we talk about it one more time,’’ Bonine said in reference to deferring Boyer’s proposals. “I owe it to (everyone in the association) as executive director, that we need to talk about this one more time (as a group) before we take that rubber band and just keep stretching it.
“(This is) not right. I just think we need to take a close look at it before we step into that rabbit hole.’’
Under Boyer’s proposals, select school championships in football, basketball, baseball and softball would be played at the home field of the higher-seeded school or ideally at larger college or municipal stadiums and arenas near to the home school.
Schools in the finals would share the expense of the staging the championships and split the revenue after paying the LHSAA a 10 percent stipend of gate receipts per association rules for playoff games.
“I have not been a proponent of the split,’’ Boyer said of the rationale for his proposals. “I have put up legislation as a school principal to try to avert it and amend it. I have put up legislation as part of the school relations committee as the chair of it to try to put (the split of the association) back together. But I’ve come to the conclusion that I don’t think that we’re coming back together.’’
Boyer said staging the LHSAA championship events have become too expensive and unwieldy with nine titles being awarded in football and 12 each in boys and girls basketball, baseball and softball. He pointed to the LHSAA’s inability to fulfill its payment guarantees to the Superdome Prep Classic participants in 2017 as evidence.
“I was looking for a win-win.’’ Boyer said. “To me the win, win would be go back to five football games in the Superdome Classic so you’re negating a lot of cost with that. And then do as I’m saying, let the home team on the bracket be responsible for the game.
“You’re giving the LHSAA a cut of your gate. In reality they don’t have to send staff to run that event. It’s strictly profit besides the trophy that will be presented. Then the same thing can happen in the Top 28 basketball tournament and the baseball and softball tournaments.’’
Rental of the Superdome for three days to stage the Prep Classic in football costs the LHSAA more than $500,000, Bonine said. But he also said the association has taken measures to insure that future guarantees are paid in full.
“The Dome is the big (issue),’’ Bonine said. “The Superdome is something those kids think about and want to have an opportunity to participate in. The fact to know that some schools would be there and some schools wouldn’t be bothers me. I hope it bothers (LHSAA members) as well.’’
Still to be determined at next week’s convention by the LHSAA parliamentarian and attorney is whether Boyer’s proposals are to be decided by a two-thirds vote of the general membership as required with constitutional issues or determined by a vote of select schools. It is Boyer’s contention that recent LHSAA legislation gives select schools the authority to determine the format of their championships.
Bonine fears passage of Boyer’s proposals moves the LHSAA closer to an outright separation and threatens the Allstate Sugar Bowl’s sponsorship of state championship events.
“The perception as I stand here today, which is not what the author (Boyer) intended, but the perception is what he’s proposing is one step closer to us splitting completely between private and public,’’ Bonine said. “We don’t want to go there.
“My job as executive director is to try to do what’s best for the association. And to continue to split further in my opinion is not what’s best for the overall association. I want to make sure that everybody knows what the ramifications are and where we’re going with it.
“I’m afraid potentially at the next convention that someone’s going to write a proposal to move into two governances. That’s next. And that in my opinion, and I don’t care what side you’re on, is not good for the LHSAA.
“We’re approaching our 100th year. In 2020 we’re 100 years, we’re the LHSAA and that is not something we need to have as a topic when it comes to our 100th year. I truly believe with what else is going on around the world that we need to try to find a way to unite, whatever that means.’’