LHSAA director says he’ll change things, but how?
The new executive director of the Louisiana High School Athletic Association has asserted himself as the man in charge.
And principals of sound mind are breathing a sigh of relief and keeping their fingers crossed.
Unlike his predecessor, Kenny Henderson, Eddie Bonine let the 300 principals in attendance at the Jan. 28-30 LHSAA Annual Convention know that if they give him an honest chance, he will solve the public vs. private school issues that have plagued the association, especialy over the past seven years when Henderson was in charge.
Before Bonine and two other top brass members of the LHSAA visited principals in area meetings throughout the state two weeks ago, public school principals were ready to vote en masse for a proposal to add basketball, baseball and softball to the growing list of sports with separate playoffs for Select (private and Catholic) and Non-Select (traditional public) schools.
But Bonine, using a combination of tact and showing a willingness to collaborate with all factions of principals, got the group to kill Many principal Norman Booker’s plan to split even more playoffs, and to put on hold two other playoff proposals.
By doing so, Bonine successfully bought himself time to assess the situation for himself and to find an alternative solution everyone can live with.
Of the 300 principals present in the great hall of the Baton Rouge Crowne Plaza, 100 were schools that do not field football teams. The vote of these schools, along with the many other non-public schools, overcame a public school majority.
The vote was 162-81 against Booker’s proposal to hold separate baseball playoffs. The defeated Booker had no choice but to withdraw his proposals to split basketball and softball to avoid the humiliation of watching them voted down as well.
But he was conciliatory enough to say he accepted the will of his peers and looks forward to working with Bonine.
Archdiocese well represented
Principals from schools in the Archdiocese of New Orleans made it a point to be in attendance for the vote. And their voice was heard loudly and clearly.
Among the happy principals was Brother Martin’s Greg Rando, who said the result of the vote, “creates an opportunity for all schools to gain a greater understanding of the impact each proposal might have for the LHSAA. “In meetings with the School Relations Committee, and in conversations with other principals around the state, the momentum for a split playoff system in baseball, softball and basketball seemed to shift considerably.
“The outcome was very positive for our Catholic schools,” Rando said.
Bonine’s game plan is to form a study committee within 45 days of his taking office on March 1.
“I believe in collaboration and I want to include principals, coaches, athletic directors, school system superintendents, sponsors and even legislators,” he said. “Then we’ll have everyone on the same page, and I’ll have something that’s workable to present to everybody.”
But the final product may be a work-in-progress during or through the 2015-16 school year.
In the meantime, the LHSAA will still hold nine championship football games over two weeks in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
Reclassification will be put on hold past its March date.
Football home-and-home contracts outside district play are invalid and will have to be rewritten, perhaps with different opponents.
But what’s the plan?
How can this man make 287 principals of schools with football teams happy when former commissioners Tommy Henry and Henderson couldn’t?
If the LHSAA uses the business model Bonine utilized as head of the Nevada association – when he dealt with the abundant success one school, Bishop Gorman – the picture may become clearer.
“I didn’t kick Bishop Gorman out, as many people think,” Bonine said.
Instead he placed them in a more competitive class of competition. Would he do the same with Louisiana’s successful private schools?
If so, you might see 26-time state champ John Curtis (with 380 students) in a district with the Catholic League schools.
Evangel (with 368 students) may be placed in either Class 5A or 4A. The same for another football power, Calvary Baptist (241 students).
I believe he will allow schools to play up in class if they wish. If he does, Holy Cross will have to as the smallest school in Class 5A with a reported enrollment of 1,222 (the enrollment figure is doubled because Holy Cross is a single-sex school).
But what to do about a school like Riverside Academy, which has won Class 2A championships for four of the last five years? Put them in Class 5A for all sports or for basketball only?
And what about Division V volleyball power Episcopal of Acadiana, which has won more titles than any school in any class? Will it be moved up?
Bonine will earn his keep.