By Ron Brocato, Clarion Herald Sports
Louisiana Select schools have taken the handoff from LHSAA executive director Eddie Bonine.
Now the principals of that unofficial body – the Louisiana Select Association (LSA) – must decide where they want to run with it: toward a common goal or farther away.
That was the task given to their representatives by the Louisiana High School Athletic Association’s executive committee at its fall meeting on Sept. 5.
A handful of “officers” from the LSA listened as Bonine articulated the options of either bringing public and non-public schools back together as one body interested in preserving the association as an all-inclusive body or widening the canyon that separates the 408 association members.
The first step is for Select schools to agree to return to the Mercedes-Benz Superdome for their version of state – or, more accurately, division – championship games on Dec. 12-14 when the non-Selects play their five class championships.
The LSA has this option, but the catch is that Select school principals must do so within a week (the actual deadline was two weeks as of the meeting).
Through Bonine’s encouragement, Superdome Management Group, which operates the facility, is holding those dates open for title games to be played in four divisions. But the window of opportunity will soon close.
Principals of Select schools won approval in January to conduct their own playoffs in four sports (football, basketball, softball and baseball). That included taking the Select, or non-public, schools out of the Allstate Sugar Bowl-sponsored Prep Classic and having the highest seeds host the four division championship games at less expensive stadiums. They theorized this would allow the school to reap more financial benefits than playing in the costly Superdome.
Select school principals made a bold move in July toward this end by forming the LSA, which Bonine rebukes as non-partner with no legislative power other than to solicit bids to host division championship games in those four sports.
Bonine said that decision was the wrong move, not only for the students, but also because it could circumvent his plan to reunify Select and non-Select schools as one inclusive body whose purpose is to provide a stable association for the 400-plus member schools and the state’s high school athletes.
As of today, no venues have been selected as sites for Select schools’ championships. But the LSA’s chief executive officer, Catholic (Baton Rouge) athletic director J.P. Kelly, said he will poll the Select schools’ principals to get their reply.
Because of time constraints, it is imperative that this situation be resolved quickly; no negotiations on this matter are on the table.
Kelly said the LSA principals’ goal is reunification of the association in one common playoff system.
The proverbial light at the end of Bonine’s tunnel is the fact that a large number of principals are first- or second- year administrators and may not have been exposed to the hard line set in the past.
But, he pointed out, many of these new principals have limited or no athletics background and may rely on their athletic directors for guidance.
The ADs’ influence will be the key to critical future votes.
Bonine’s poll revealed that the majority of schools in Divisions II, III and IV want to play their title games in the Dome, but most of the 12 Division I (Class 5A ) schools do not.
The conflict, as I see it, is that a proposal to allow Select schools to run their own playoffs is now on the books as a law.
Do the principals want to break the law for which they lobbied so hard to have passed?
You can bet that the January 2020, business agenda will be stocked with new items authored by Select school principals. But, remember, it will take a two-thirds vote to pass any of them.
The LHSAA is a principals’ association. But whether or not these stewards of the constitution do what’s in the best interest of student athletes is the burning question. More often than not, they haven’t.
Ron Brocato can be reached at email@example.com.