By Ron Brocato, Clarion Herald Sports
Six months ago, the general assembly of Louisiana High School Athletic Association principals passed a proposal to allow Select (non-public) schools to conduct their own championship playoff games in four sports: football, basketball (boys and girls), baseball and softball, hosted by the higher seeds or by mutual agreement between the finalists.
So, I’m wondering why principals from these schools went through the trouble to form an organization with a board they call the Louisiana Select Association when the extent of their only charge is to focus on the administration of their championship sites?
The LSA even named one of its own to coordinate future “proposals.”
Of all the principals in the Select schools ranks, they chose former LHSAA executive director Kenny Henderson, now the head of a recently approved LHSAA Class C member school, Brighton (enrollment 61), to craft the wording of whatever future proposals the group submits.
Interim chief executive officer J.P. Kelly of Catholic High in Baton Rouge and Teurlings Catholic principal Michael Boyer made the new association’s intentions clear at their organizational meeting: The LSA does not intend to break away from the LHSAA but rather be recognized as an affiliate, much as the LHSOA (officials’ association), LHSCA (coaches’ association) and the athletic directors’ association.
But the LHSAA does not recognize such distinction for this group because, unlike the three other affiliate groups that are part of the state association, the LSA is not an all-inclusive body. Its focus is on Select schools only and not necessarily in the interest of the entire 404-school membership.
Representatives from more than 70 schools (of 108 Select schools) voted to form the LSA at their recent organizational meeting. It has its own ratified constitution.
But what is the purpose of a constitution if all the LSA intends to do is barter for the best available playing sites at the right price for Select school championship games? LHSAA executive director Eddie Bonine is wondering that same thing.
Limited to a single purpose
Although two LSA principals, including Ecole Classique’s David Federico, sit on the LHSAA executive committee, the LSA itself has no voice and definitely no voting power on that board. And it shouldn’t. Its range of power doesn’t extend any further than its mission to provide non-public schools with the best playoff experience possible.
“If they want to wait until January to make a proposal that gives the LSA further authority on behalf of the (LHSAA) membership to be approved by all of the membership, that allows this group to represent the Select schools, that’s fine,” Bonine said. “And until this happens, they don’t have the authority to do what they claim they want to at this point.”
Any proposal that goes before the principals at the January 2020 convention, authored by Henderson or any LSA principal, to give the Select schools authority to further their perception of independence will be under critical scrutiny and unlikely to carry a two-thirds vote of approval.
Bonine said the LSA does have the authority to change tournament formats as long as the championship dates are aligned with the LHSAA calendar.
“If they want to change a 16-team tournament to an eight-team, or a 32 to a 24, they can do that,” he said. “We have given them the autonomy to determine how they get to the championship game on the date we established.”
There has been recent movement by the LSA to acquire sites for its football championships. The group issued a news release late last week that set the Select schools’ playoff dates for Dec. 5-7. Playing sites will be determined after the LSA evaluates proposals from venues throughout the state. The LSA was scheduled to study the bids Aug. 30.
Dates for the Allstate Sugar Bowl Prep Classic, as of now a five-game event for non-Select schools, are Dec. 12-14.
3 divisions favor Dome
Bonine sent his own survey to the 71 Select schools that field football teams in an effort to inquire about their interest in playing their championships in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. He said that of the 71 schools surveyed, 56 responded. Of the 15 non-respondents, two had played in the Dome in past years.
“The majority of schools in three of the four divisions voted to play their championship games in the Dome,” Bonine reported. The lone dissident is Division I, which has just 12 schools, half of which draw byes in the first round and have to win just two games to play for a Division I title.
They see a deluge of revenue cascading into their coffers. But, this could be fool’s gold considering the logistical hurdles that lie ahead n staging an event just days after knowing who the finalists are.
I do understand schools, particularly those with large bases of parents, student bodies and fans, not wanting to play at odd times. But Bonine said he bases the Select and non-Select championship game times on match-ups and past history.
“My staff and I look at three to four years of data of who the actual matchups are. Nobody likes a noon or 3 p.m. game on Thursday. I get it. But when you schedule the Dome for two weekends, you run into conflict with the Saints (home schedule), Bonine pointed out.”
“My goal is to make sure the prime-time games, which are going to be on television, are going to put 30,000 people in the lower ring of the stadium. And, I believe we did a pretty good job over the past two years with Hahnville, Zachary and West Monroe being in there. Catholic High brings a good crowd, but John Curtis doesn’t bring a whole lot of people.”
But he also remembers the Division I title game of 2014 as one exception. In that game, played at 8:30 p.m., on a Friday, Jesuit defeated Curtis, 17-14.
“The whole ground-level ring was filled. I believe every Catholic in the state came to support Jesuit.”
I wonder if Tad Gormley, which is quite adequate for a regular-season Catholic League game, or Yulman Stadium, with its limited parking, would be a better venue in the erratic December Louisiana weather. Just wondering.
Ron Brocato can be reached at email@example.com.