LHSAA: Split playoffs _lowres

Advocate file photo by ADAM LAU -- LHSAA Executive Director Kenny Henderson listens to a speaker during LHSAA's annual convention at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Baton Rouge on Friday, Jan. 25, 2013.

Kenny Henderson’s seven-year tenure as head of the Louisiana High School Athletic Association ended in about one minute.

That’s how long it took Thursday for LHSAA President Vic Bonnaffee of Central Catholic to read a statement that brought an abrupt end to Henderson’s run as executive director of the state’s governing body for high school sports.

Bonnaffee noted before and after reading the three-paragraph news release that he could make no additional comment because it involved a personnel matter.

“The LHSAA executive committee and its Executive Director, Kenny Henderson, have mutually agreed that it is in the best interest of the association and Mr. Henderson to sever their relationship,” effective Friday, the statement said.

“The executive committee wishes to express its appreciation to Mr. Henderson for his dedicated service over the last seven years, the improvements made during his term as Executive Director, and his efforts in meeting the many challenges which have been faced by the LHSAA during that period.”

The search for Henderson’s successor will be begin immediately, according to the release, and Ouachita Parish High Principal Todd Guice, past president of the LHSAA, will lead the search committee.

Thursday’s statement followed the second closed session involving executive committee members at the LHSAA office this week. Members of the committee also met Monday, with Bonnaffee again noting he could make no comments on a personnel matter.

Henderson, who took over as head of the LHSAA in October 2007, did speak to the group Monday. That meeting followed another closed executive session Oct. 1 as part of a regularly scheduled executive committee meeting.

Attempts to reach Henderson by phone were unsuccessful.

The news release left some questions unanswered. There was no mention of whether there will be an interim director or whom it would be.

“It’s a tough job,” said Lutcher football coach Tim Detillier, a former executive committee member. “It really is a no-win situation. It’s like being president of the United States. There’s no way you can make everybody happy.

“I feel like Kenny Henderson had more major issues to deal with than the previous three commissioners combined. It’s just a sign of our times in the changing world we live in today.”

Henderson was principal at Ruston High School when he was hired to succeed Tommy Henry as the LHSAA’s commissioner in 2007, when Henry retired. A career educator and former coach, Henderson worked at several other schools and also served as principal at another Ruston school, Cedar Creek.

“Based on the last couple of weeks, you had a sense that something was about to happen,” LHSAA school relations committee chairman Mike Boyer of Teurlings Catholic said. “You didn’t know what it was. None of us were in any of the meetings to know if there was a specific point that led to this.

“Obviously, this comes at a tough time with the January (convention) meeting so close and so many major things, involving select and nonselect schools hanging in the balance. Kenny did a great job with the LHSAA improving things structurally, and the organization is in solid financial shape.

“I know the (Varsity Event Management) lawsuit is one thing that didn’t sit well with some committee members. Kenny got beat up the last few months on a couple of things, like the Livonia case and the case involving the young man from Episcopal. Both of those were rulings based on rules in the handbook, which is unfortunate.

“There were some people who weren’t happy with his leadership involving the split. Some thought he should have fought it. Others like it the way it is now with the split (football) championships.”

The Varsity Event Management lawsuit dates to late 2011 when Henderson and LHSAA hired former LHSAA staffer Rob Owens and Mary Ann Tice, previously of the defunct Shreveport Regional Sports Authority, to manage its championship events. The group managed fall 2011 events before the sides parted ways and a breach-of-contract suit was filed. A court date for that is pending in 2015.

In March, the executive committee denied the request of Episcopal to grant an added year of eligibility to football and soccer player Clement Mubungirwa, who turned 19 years old 55 days before the LHSAA cutoff date for eligibility.

The Mubungirwa case then played out in the Legislature with a law requiring the LHSAA to go to third-party arbitration in cases like Mubungirwa’s being passed. Episcopal lost its arbitration case for Mubungirwa last month.

Later in the spring, Henderson ruled a Livonia freshman ineligible, resulting in the school having to forfeit 18 baseball games and seven football games. The Pointe Coupee Parish School also had to return its Class 3A runner-up trophy and playoff revenue for football.

A court ruling put the Livonia baseball team in the playoffs. Another suit involving the Livonia case also is still pending.

“This is really a difficult thing,” said Redemptorist Principal Dary Glueck, who served on the executive committee while at Broadmooor. “I think Kenny did some very good things for the LHSAA during his time there and I hope people remember that.

“I always knew him to be a straight shooter and enjoyed working with him. Reading the release, it sounds like they Kenny was in agreement with the executive committee. I hope that was the case and he’s decided it’s better that he go on do something else.”

Glueck added a cautionary note.

“I am worried for the LHSAA right now,” he said. “We’re going into a critical time for the association with January meeting coming up and so many key issues out there. I know the search committee is going to do a good job, but right now we’re without a leader.”