Where will the LHSAA go from here?; Things are getting interesting
It is becoming really interesting in the world of the LHSAA.
As was reported by the Gazette in an earlier edition, on July 29 more than 70 of the LHSAA’s 108 select schools voted to ratify the constitution which formed the Louisiana Select Association (LSA).
The main purpose of the organization, according to newly elected CEO JP Kelly, was to have a structure in place for the state championship events for the select schools that were splintered away from the traditional championship events.
That splintering occurred in December of 2018 when the LHSAA members approved a series of proposals by TCHS Principal Mike Boyer that give select schools the right to break away from the LHSAA’s traditional championship events in those sports.
Kelly and several select school head coaches also stated that the LSA was a way to help unify the LHSAA back to the way it was before the LHSAA members voted to split the football playoffs back in 2013. The split playoffs expanded to basketball, baseball and softball in 2016.
In a letter issued on July 31, LHSAA Executive director Eddie Bonine stated that the LSA is “not a recognized LHSAA sub-group, nor or they an actor of such, nor the equivalent of the Louisiana High School Coaches Association.” Bonine also stated in the letter that the “LSA formation structure promotes perceptional optics not conducive to LHSAA unification.”
That my friends is a pretty bold statement.
One of the reasons that Bonine is not to thrilled with the formation of the LSA is that the LHSAA is in the midst of gathering survey responses from their members in regards to the direction that the organization should take going forward.
The surveys, mailed out to the member schools, have options on the survey that include bringing the LSHAA back together for playoffs in all sports and for the formation of separate associations for select and non/select schools. Those surveys were due back on Friday.
Another wrinkle in all of this is the matter of sponsorships for the LSA state championships. In July, one of the topics discussed by the LSA was garnering sponsors for those championship events.
However, an email from Chuck Schmidt, vice president and general manager of the Prep Division of OUTFRONT Media, the company that has taken over marketing and sponsorships for the LHSAA, basically killed any premise that the LSA had of getting their own sponsors.
In the email, Schmidt told the LSA that they are, and they alone, have the rights to sell sponsorships to LHSAA events and any attempts to sell sponsorships is illegal and would call for legal action. All LSA members are still part of the LHSAA.
Kelly responded by saying that he was not aware of OUTFRONT’s agreement with the LHSAA and that the only reason the LSA spoke about sponsorships was because they “thought we would be responsible for handling that area for the select events.”
Kelly also stated that he spoke to Bonine about the formation of the LSA and understands that in order for the organization to be formally recognized by the LHSAA, there must be a vote in January of the entire membership.
Here is my take on the whole situation.
First and foremost, the LHSAA should have never split their championships in the first place. There are not enough schools in this state to handle two separate championship paths, much less two separate athletic associations.
Most coaches and people knowledgable about the situation agree that the split made the playoffs a joke, especially in football. In fact, it is such a joke that the non-select football coaches in Class 1A voted to cut their bracket down to 24 teams.
Look, I realize that a number of non-select schools were pretty peeved at the advantages that a number of select schools had in terms of getting players into their program.
Hell, to be honest, I think everyone knew that recruiting by the select schools was taking place all over the state. But, let’s also be honest that recruiting also took place by non-select schools as well. Maybe not to the extent that took place with select schools, but it was there.
However, there were, and still are, select schools that either don’t recruit or can’t recruit because of special circumstances.
Being a graduate of a public school (now called non-select) and having coached in public school most of my career makes me biased toward those schools. Nevertheless, the vote to split the playoffs by the LHSAA (which has a huge majority of non-select schools) was a notion that caught fire after a few cry-baby schools got upset they could not win a state championship in football.
Wah, wah! Cry me a river!
What should have happened was that the LHSAA should have produced more stringent rules on movement of athletes and actually enforce those rules. Now with the way that parishes are allowing students choices to move away from failing schools, even if the LHSAA re-unites the playoffs, there has to be a change in the way eligibility is determined.
In my opinion, the formation of the LSA is not, as Kelly said, a way to bring the LHSAA back together again, but rather a warning to the organization that a total split may be on the horizon.
If that were to occur, those smaller select schools will get the worse end of the stick. With a split, those schools will now have to travel far distances just to get a game or play bigger schools; something that is sure to bust budgets and players.
So, get smart LHSAA. Come back together and work toward common sense solutions that will keep the organization together.