LHSAA's top exec, principals ready to rumble
Among the many lessons I have learned from following the parade of Louiana high school athletics and the state association that administers to the 396 member schools is that principals don’t like someone telling them how to run their institutes of knowledge.
And that includes the association’s executive director.
So it will be interesting to see this week how well LHSAA’s top exec, Eddie Bonine, handles a few hundred hard heads at the 2016 convention, which will have begun on Jan. 27 in Baton Rouge.
He said he was going to be the thermostat and not the thermometer at the three-day general meeting, which will culminate with a vote on the 24 agenda items.
The key issues, in order, are (1) reducing the number of championship games by permanently abolishing separate football playoffs, which Bonine claims are a violation of the LHSAA constitution; (2) ratifying a fee increase imposed by officials in seven sports; (3) deciding if a dual playoff system that matches rural and metro schools against their own kind by divisions is a viable alternative to the select/non-select option.
Principals have already pushed back on the separate playoff model that has been in place since 2013. Bonine fielded complaints at pre-convention area meetings in six Louisiana cities last week. And this tells me there will be a strong effort by the principals to not only put the select and non-select playoffs back in the rule book as a constitutional item, but have separate playoffs for other sports as well.
A contentious week
This week will be the most important of Bonine’s early tenure. It will match his will to steer the (public school) principals toward looking at what’s good for the whole association instead of maintaining their misguided will to carry on their prejudices (against non-public schools) under the guise of creating a level playing eld.
Separate playoffs are costly. Rental of the Mercedes-Benz Superdome for one weekend costs the LHSAA more than $200,000. Holding nine so-called championship games over two weekends doubles that dollar amount.
If the principals vote to add more sports to the select/ non-select split, the LHSAA will have to double the number of officials for the bi-district playoff round when there is a shortage of these men and women in stripes. The championship venues will cost more money unless the host city or venue wants to pick up the tab. All this to get a trophy some school didn’t earn by beating the best.
It won’t all be doom and gloom. Some items should breeze through with little opposition. I don’t believe anyone will object to baseball teams in classes 3A and 2A using a best-of-three playoff format. Classes 5A and 4A play a single-elimination game at the home eld of the higher seed in the bi-district round, then best-of-three series in the regional and quarterfinal rounds. The winners then play a single-elimination tournament in the semi nals and championship rounds.
Nothing contentious here.
Principal Bruce Bundy of Mandeville proposed making school districts or attendance zones designated by public school boards or the federal courts be used in determining the eligibility of transfer students.
This was the law of the land prior to 2005 when Hurricane Katrina changed the local landscape. Because so many public schools were damaged or destroyed, then-Commissioner Tommy Henry declared New Orleans an open enrollment city and allowed students to attend any school that was operational and maintain his/her athletic eligibility.
That was subsequently followed by a rule to make civil parish lines as boundaries.
There is a series of similar transfer rules on the agenda that address administrative transfers, non-public to non-public transfers and transfers to new member schools.
Three north Louisiana principals want to add a Class 6A to create eight classes (as if Louisiana doesn’t have too many classes already).
Class 6A would consist of 32 schools with the largest student enrollments, plus those that choose to play up to that class.
I’ve got a better idea, boys and girls:
Combine classes B and C then divide the other five classes into four equal parts to have ve total classes as a state of this size should.
I don’t expect eight classes to pass muster.
I believe, for as much attention as it has garnered, the rural/metro concept is dead in the water, not because it lacks merit, but because a majority of principals just don’t want to compete against private or Catholic schools in the playoffs.
There’s also confusion about which schools should be placed in each category.
The officials question
Although they’ll be kicking and screaming, tight-fisted principals have just one alternative to ratifying the officials’ self-imposed fee increase: pay up or don’t play.
Officials from throughout the state said their long-denied increase is not negotiable.
Principals on several occasions have denied of cials a pay increase. The officials saw it as a lack of respect.
Officials also want to know that they will be safe when they leave a stadium or arena.
Some principals with limited budgets find the increases unreasonable. Others see it as the price of having an athletic program.
Some principals and coaches hold fund-raisers in the form of candy sales. One suggestion was to slightly increase the price of admission.
There may be football games played with just five officials or two-man crews at important basketball games, but principals will have to bite the bullet on this item and pass it.
And electronic voting will reveal who voted for or against it.