Sugar Bowl, Legislature keen observers of LHSAA
There will be two interested observers awaiting the outcome of the Louisiana High School Athletic Association’s vote on agenda item No. 19 Friday.
If principals vote to pass a proposal that would hold separate playoffs for public and non-public schools competing in basketball, softball and baseball, the LHSAA could be in a heap of trouble.
The most interested spectators are the Louisiana Legislature and the Allstate Sugar Bowl, which doles out big money to sponsor the association’s championship events.
While principals from North Louisiana scoff at the prospect of a legislator surfacing to make a name for himself by intervening – and dismiss the Sugar Bowl’s admonishment to cease splitting playoffs or lose its generosity – LHSAA president Vic Bonnaffee is gravely concerned.
The LHSAA funds its operation with dues from its 396 schools, sponsorships and gate receipts at championship events.
“We’re not as sound fiscally as people think we are,” Bonnaffee told New Orleans-area principals on Jan. 22. “Over the last three years, we have spent over a quarter of a million dollars on legal services and $400,000 in the last two years on a court case that is still transpiring. And it’s killing our operational budget.
“We can’t afford to lose any of the sources of our income, especially our sponsorships and the people involved in our sponsorships.”
The Allstate Sugar Bowl has a clause in its contract with the LHSAA that would allow it to terminate the contract if there are any significant changes in the LHSAA. That includes a further split, as proposed by Many principal Norman Booker III (Item No. 19).
There will be a counter proposal put up independently by a trio of principals from the Monroe area as a compromise measure that would create a 6A class for the largest-enrollment schools and those opting to play up in class. That proposal also would reunite public and non-public schools.
But if it were up to incoming executive director Eddie Bonine, the LHSAA would get additional time to study all of its problems before any rash decisions are made.
As a private organization, the state Legislature has few legal grounds to interfere with the workings of the LHSAA.
“But,” Bonnaffee said, “our lobbyists are telling us that (legislators) are looking at us. They have a copy of our agenda. They’re looking at this meeting and are ready to jump in.”
“The state Legislature can’t affect the LHSAA if we want to fight them in court because we are private,” Bonnaffee explained. But, he warned, the Legislature can tell public schools where they can and can’t spend their state-funded dollars.
“And if we don’t want you to be part of the LHSAA, you can’t spend your dollars on the LHSAA. And these guys are serious,”Bonnaffee said.
So now it’s up to the principals to decide their own fate. Will collaboration be the order of the day or will defiance reign when the principals raise their voting paddles?
Are the problems Bonine, the new leader, has to face a case of public vs. private? Urban vs. rural? or north Louisiana vs. south Louisiana?
Is this a civil war that will affect the thousands of student athletes the LHSAA is supposed to serve?
“This thing is bigger than people realize. There is a vast difference between north and south Louisiana, and we need to stay together in south Louisiana,” Bonnaffee said.