Some pieces fell into place on the final day of the LHSAA’s summer meeting.
Championship bids were awarded and appeals happened. There was no resolution for issues with officials seeking pay raises.
However, a key puzzle piece fell into place when the LHSAA executive committee approved an editorial change to its bylaws that will allow freshmen to compete in subvarsity honors when moving from one parish to another.
It may also be a the peacemaker for the LHSAA and legislators that new Executive Director Eddie Bonine has been seeking.
“I thought (the meeting) was productive,” Bonine said. “I thought the bid process went well. I thought we accomplished a lot. I think the part that maybe got covered up with some this stuff was the legislative piece.
“I think that was big for us. It’s opened the line of communication. They were willing to negotiate, but I think the better word is ‘compromise’ so we could get some language in as to what their request was.”
The committee’s decision to insert the language into the 2015-16 handbook now rather than to wait for full membership approval means freshmen will be eligible this fall. It is expected to stave off attempts to pass House Bill 457, which would have provided open eligibility for most ninth-graders. Bonine said the item will be put on the January 2016 agenda. All member principals could vote on in then.
The committee’s decision to award its Girls Top 28 tournament to Hammond offered another highlight Tuesday, the last day of the two-day meeting held at the LHSAA office.
Bonine said he plans to begin negotiating with principals and the Louisiana High School Officials Association, using a meeting of state school superintendents as a springboard next week. Bonine said he has no plans to call a special meeting to get principals to approve as immediate pay raise.
LHSAA research shows that the raises the LHSOA has requested would amount to an average increase of $1,800 for a school with seven sports programs.
“It’s a process of working through this,” Bonine said. “We’ve got to get back in good faith and try to orchestrate that. That’s going to be my job as the liaison.
“The problem I have is that the officials are asking schools to do something they can’t do under our bylaws, which is sign a contract with them. That doesn’t sit well with me. I have a task force that says we have to crack down on people who don’t abide by the rules. Am I supposed to suspend a membership for a year or fines? We’ve got football games just around the corner.”
Sulphur’s McMurry Park was the lone bidder for baseball and was awarded the bid. The same was true for Lake Charles’ Burton Coliseum in boys basketball. The most spirited debate was on whether to send the girls basketball tourney back to the University Center in Hammond, a longtime host, or to keep it in Lake Charles.
Several members of the committee expressed their preference for Hammond. Assistant Director B.J. Guzzardo noted that Hammond had helped the LHSAA several times over the last 15 years and lost the girls tourney only when the LHSAA went to a regional boys/girls semifinals format.
“Hammond never did want to give up the girls tournament,” Guzzardo said. “It was taken away from them and they hosted a regional tournament instead.”
Doyle’s Tommy Hodges made the motion to send the tourney to Hammond. He noted the tradition girls basketball and the tournament share in the Hammond area.
“We are ecstatic,” Hammond Top 28 steering committee co-chairman Daryl Ferrara said. “When we found out Hammond was awarded the bid, we started our planning process then. We roll out the red carpet, not only for the girls basketball team, but also for the fans, their parents and grandparents.
“We always think about the girls first. We’re going to give them great memories. We want it to be something they never forget.”
Other bids, etc.
Tad Gormley Stadium was selected to again host boys and girls soccer. Monroe will host cheerleading, powerlifting and tennis.
The executive committee voted to allow Carver Collegiate and Carver Prep to operate as one school for athletic purposes for two more years as the schools to continue to move toward a merger in an under-construction building. An eligibility appeal for a Helen Cox athlete, Jordan Sneed, was denied.