LHSAA makes last-ditch effort toward survival

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The Louisiana High School Athletic Association will ask its member principals to compromise in hopes of saving the association’s future.

The LHSAA’s Executive Committee approved a motion on Friday afternoon which will allow the organization to hold a special meeting for principals to consider a “compromise plan” that’s been created by the association’s School Relations Committee in recent weeks.

In the plan, the association would be back together without any type of split in classes 5A and 4A, but would then would be separated under a rural/urban structure for 3A, 2A, 1A, Class B and Class C.

The Executive Committee vote passed after hours of heated discussion from advocates on both side of the spectrum. The approval vote came via a slim 11-10 margin.

A meeting date has not been set for the principal’s vote on the compromise plan, but conflicting schedules during the final months of the school year may push it all the way to June, according to LHSAA officials.

If successful in passing the new plan, the all-sports split proposals that principals approved in January at the LHSAA’s Annual Convention would be erased – a decision that many stressed Friday would save the association from a private-school pullout and an alternative league being formed.

“We’re pleased that we will get the opportunity to sit down again and vote on another alternative,” said Mike Boyer, the School Relations Committee Chairman. “The vote was very, very close, which isn’t that surprising considering how passionate this issue is to so many people. But we’ve been told from the beginning by (LHSAA Executive Director) Eddie Bonine that the plan we passed in January would be difficult to make reality, so we look forward to the opportunity to improv-

ing on that and doing what’s best for everyone involved.”

Friday’s meeting was tense, with a lot of emotions shed on both sides.

Several coaches and principals spoke against the compromise, saying that it would undermine the authority of the LHSAA and give the minority members more influence than the majority.

Tommy Hodges with Doyle High School pointed to the fact that LHSAA member schools have voted three-straight years to be split – at a voting margin that has grown each year.

“To me, that tells me what we’re doing is working,” he said.

Hodges said the best solution for compromise would have been tweaking the all-sports split that was passed in January.

“That’s what we said we wanted – that plan we passed,” he said. “If we want to bend, let’s bend under the plan we said we wanted.”

But others seemed to think that passage of the compromise plan was necessary, because it’s the last chance the LHSAA has to stay whole.

Since the all-sports split has been passed, private schools have organized preliminary plans to create their own league – a move that could have a huge blow to the LHSAA’s future sustainability.

State Representative Kirk Talbot, R-River Ridge, also has a bill on the books in Baton Rouge that would make it virtually illegal for a public/private split by taking away funding from the schools who’d participate under such a structure.

Talbot’s bill passed Louisiana’s education committee last month, and can be voted on in the near future. He’s tabled the bill in recent weeks at the request of the LHSAA, who had asked for more time to resolve the issue on its own.

Talbot was at Friday’s meeting, and urged the LHSAA to do exactly that – handle its business without need for government interference.

“Find a solution,” Talbot said. “Find a way to compromise and do what’s right for everyone. That is what is in your best interests.”

LHSAA Executive Director Eddie Bonine talks to principals during the Annual Convention. The association hopes a new vote will bring compromise and unity.