Does latest shot at unification for the LHSAA stand a chance?

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LHSAA Prep Classic football championships
(Photo: Parker Waters)

Updated: Jan. 27, 2022

We are now 10 years down the road since the last true champions were crowned in Louisiana prep football in 2012.

We are now six years down the road since the last true champions were crowned in Louisiana boys and girls prep basketball in 2016.

We are now six years down the road since the last true champions were crowned in Louisiana prep baseball and softball in 2016.

Will we see true championships in those sports again anytime in the future, if at all, in Louisiana prep sports?

The answer, once and for all, may come this Friday at the Class meetings of LHSAA principals in Baton Rouge at the annual convention.

All eyes and ears will be on this limited convention, limited in these continuing pandemic times.

Among the 59 items on the agenda to be considered, the most interesting on the table were proposals to unify Class 5A and Class 1A.

UPDATE: However, the latter has been pulled by Ouachita Christian headmaster Bobby Stokes in hopes of a “compromise” that expands the Division IV playoffs from 16 to 24 teams.

https://twitter.com/JakeMartinOC/status/1486692676879667208?t=_8-jO3GKgJVTeSoqsovfTw&s=19

Schools that are classified 5A for the 2022-23 school year are eligible to vote on the class proposal so, for example, Karr can vote on the 5A proposal since the Cougars are moving up while Archbishop Shaw is not eligible to vote on it since the Eagles are moving down to 4A for next school year.

Of the two proposals, Class 5A was already the one with the best chance, based on most recent votes and the fact that at least two schools which have voted for the split previously are likely to vote to unify in that class.

Naturally, those public or non select schools which voted against the split previously would have to vote the same way this time around.

The reason a reunification actually has a shot is twofold.

The first case study is clear.

While the “poison pill” bylaw in the current constitution requires a two-thirds vote for full matters up for discussion for the full membership of the LHSAA, the class proposals on the docket this Friday require a simple majority to pass at 50 percent plus one vote.

The second is that in 5A, the votes of girls private school votes will most certainly figure prominently in the mix, unquestionably adding to the “yes” votes to get together.

There are the Class 5A powers on a statewide basis that figure to vote for unification, based on the fact that they do not fear select schools and know they can compete and compete very well with them across the board.

Then, there is a large membership of 5A schools in south Louisiana, where more non select schools are apt to either vote for or to consider voting for the proposal as compared to their north Louisiana brethren.

As I have stated consistently on my radio shows on 106.1 FM and here at CrescentCitySports.com and in other public forums, I have always been against the split and feel there are ways to bridge the gap and lack of trust which currently exists between some public institutions and private institutions.

As a matter of policy, finding solutions and working together for a common goal and allowing boys and girls an opportunity to compete with all comers in the postseason is the way to go.

It remains a bit ridiculous that schools compete with each other, often in the same districts in the regular season but then do not compete with each other in the playoffs.

LHSAA polling of student-athletes have revealed that they prefer being unified by a substantive margin.

Principals obviously have felt otherwise.

Some coaches feel the same way and would like to unify but keep quite at voting time because of a difference of opinion of their respective principals, athletic directors and/or school boards.

Speaking on The Three Tailgaters Show on NASH ICON 106.1 FM with Ed Daniels and me, LHSAA Executive Director Eddie Bonine, now in his seventh year on the job, spoke about the proposals on the table this past Friday.

“Both authors (5A and 1A) are private school principals but they have support from some public school principals in their classes,” Bonine said. “We’ve been down this road. I came in and was charged with trying to put the organization back together. I got the message that this was not the flavor of the membership. Since then, any measure aimed at bringing the association back together has been made by a principal or principals.”

Two years ago, there was a vote on the entire organization coming back together but with the two-thirds necessary for it to pass, it fell short of that mark. This particular vote in class meetings does not need the two-thirds vote to pass.

Is Bonine for the proposals to reunite?

“I just want what is best for the student-athlete,” Bonine said. “I believe that the best venue for football is the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. There’s people that still don’t agree with that. Around the United States, more high school championships are being played in professional arenas than not.”

Have minds of some principals changed since the original vote for the split?

“Individuals that voted for the split at one time are not necessarily still in favor of the split,” Bonine said. “There’s a number who didn’t vote for the split who have been affected in a positive manner now because they’re getting an opportunity to go to the postseason where they wouldn’t have under the united organization.”

One change that has been made since the original split vote in 2013 is that schools that do not participate in a sport cannot vote on that particular sport. In 2013, the vote required a simple majority to enact the split.

“I can tell you now that if schools not participating in a particular sport were not allowed to vote then, there would not have been a split,” Bonine said.

In the last couple of years, there has been ramped up investigation and enforcement with sanctions levied against public and private schools for violations, though the LHSAA chooses not to release that information publicly. Does Bonine feel the increases in investigation and enforcement may help sway schools to reunite on Friday and beyond?

“It could,” Bonine said. “We don’t go looking for sanctions and find things wrong. I truly believe it’s been successful and it might make a difference in the vote. It may not but it could. If this passes on the 5A level, there would well be a trickle-down effect and the same is true of 1A. I am hoping that everything coming out of this weekend is positive, regardless of how it goes.”

The large school proposal stands a chance.

“I don’t have an inkling, one way or the other, how it will go,” Bonine admitted. “Sometimes, you’re surprised when the ones (proposals) you didn’t think would pass do pass and the ones you thought would pass do not pass. Your guess is probably as good as mine. When it comes time to vote, some don’t always push the button the way they’ve spoken to me and others about it.”

If this does not stand, we may be talking about unification and true championships in Louisiana as a permanent thing of the past.

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