Bishops of Louisiana to study athletic options _lowres

Advocate staff photo by ROBIN FAMBROUGH LHSAA Executive Director Eddie Bonine speaks during Wednesday's LHSAA meeting at the Crowne Plaza in Baton Rouge.

A day after LHSAA member principals/proxy voters exercised their option to stick with an expanded split of its playoff championships, another group is set to study theirs.

The Bishops of Louisiana issued a brief statement on Thursday, which announces the formation of a task force to study the future of high school athletics for the state’s parochial schools.

With 43 schools in the LHSAA, parochial schools are the largest group of select/private schools.

The statement is as follows:

“The Bishops of Louisiana have approved the formation of a task force to continue looking into all options when it comes to the future of Catholic High School athletics. The task force will continue to meet in the coming months. By no means does this mean the Catholic schools of Louisiana have closed the door on LHSAA membership, nor has there been a commitment to any one future plan. The task force will be working for what is in the best interest of the student-athletes in Catholic schools throughout the state.”

A total of 56.5 percent of the 306 voters on hand for the special-called meeting held Wednesday meeting at the Crowne Plaza voted to move forward with the plan from Many Principal Norman Booker, which extends the playoff split to include boys/girls basketball, baseball and softball.

The change means the LHSAA will go from having all its schools play together for seven championships in those sports to 12 championships — seven for nonselect schools and five for select schools. The LHSAA split its football playoffs into nine championships in 2013.

LHSAA Executive Director Eddie Bonine said he respects the the position of the group.

“I have the utmost respect for Bishop (Gregory M.) Aymond and all the men in that group,” Bonine said. “I understand their desire to determine what is best for their students. I’m pleased that being part of the LHSAA is something being considered and I’ll be elated if they choose to stay and understand if they don’t.”

Catholic High Athletic Director J.P. Kelly and Archbishop Rummel Athletic Director Phil Greco said they’ll wait to see what directives they receive.

“I think it’s way too early to say what will happen right now,” Greco said. “Our schools are governed by the archdioceses and we have to follow their lead. I’m sure there will be some discussions about what our options are.

“It (the meeting vote) was very disappointing. It’s disappointing that the best teams don’t meet. It’s really bad for the girls. They only have seven schools in 5A for girls. It seems like they aren’t considering things like that.”

“The major feeling I had yesterday as I left meeting was sadness,” Catholic’s Kelly added. “The logical thing to do is to look at how and where to get the best experience possible for our athletes.

“This (statement) doesn’t rule anything out or commit to anything. But when one group is left with only seven to 10 schools to compete against is that really the best championship experience? That’s one of the things to think about.”

St. Thomas More Athletic Director Kim Broussard also offered his take.

“Now that it’s a closed deal from the vote standpoint as far as the split, I think what the bishops are doing is trying to be prudent about it and put some type of action into place and look at the feasibility of forming their own organization,” Broussard said. “Everybody’s been kind of sitting on their hands and waiting for this to happen, and now that it’s happened, it’s time for us to really start looking forward.

“I think everybody’s wish would be to stay in, but again, we have to look at what’s going to be in the best interest of the select schools, the private schools, whatever you want to call it. Why should we want to stay in? We don’t want to go, we’re being pushed out.

Robin Fambrough, Luke Johnson and Rod Walker contributed to this report