LHSAA will enforce forfeits, stop short on recommending vaccinations

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Tad Gormley

LHSAA executive director Eddie Bonine reiterated Thursday the association’s plan to issue forfeits in the event a team cannot play because of COVID-19 measures, which was announced in a memo to schools last week.

Bonine stopped short, though, when asked if he would recommend coaches and student-athletes around the state get vaccinated.

“We’re not going to encourage (vaccinations) one way or the other,” Bonine said in a Zoom call with statewide media.

He came back a moment later and added, “I will go on record as saying I have been vaccinated, my wife has been vaccinated, my two sons have been vaccinated and all but one of our (16-member) staff has been vaccinated.”

Bonine noted the back-and-forth between Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards and attorney general Jeff Landry. “If you see what’s going on, it’s been a political ping-pong,” he said. “We’re not going to get involved in that.”

The forfeit plan will keep schools from scrambling to replace opponents on short notice, as was the case in a shortened football season in 2020.

“We had … schools that were trying to manipulate their schedule using COVID,” Bonine said, noting the power rating system in place to determine seeds for the state championship brackets.

“The power points seemed to run and push a lot of things in terms of regular-season schedules,” he added. “The superintendents wanted something that was cut and dried. At the end of the day, if you can’t play because of COVID, it’s a forfeit.”

Usually, it was Louisiana High School Coaches Association director Eric Held who was playing matchmaker in the middle of the week when cancellations happened.

“Every inch of (Held’s) whiteboard was utilized,” Bonine said. “The way it’s set up now, that’s not going to be the case. They’re going to get benefit from that forfeit.”

Bonine is optimistic that in spite of the outbreak caused by the Delta variant, things will be better this fall.

“To my knowledge, we’ve only had a couple of calls from individual schools in which they’ve had a case of COVID,” he said.

Added Held, “I know that coaches are encouraging the kids to get the vaccine, but we’re not taking that stance.

We’ve been through this before; we know who the opponent is. Continue to practice those measures and allow us to have championship events.”

Bonine said a topic at the September executive committee meeting would be the retroactive awarding of football state championships to John Curtis and Byrd in the wake of forfeitures by Catholic High from a penalty ruling earlier this year.

“Those trophies would be (awarded to John Curtis and Byrd),” Bonine said. “We’re setting a standard, now with multiple seasons involved.”

In basketball, the association will have to make an upcoming decision on whether to follow a National Federation of High Schools recommendation to institute a shot clock beginning with the 2023-24 season.

“Our coaches have mixed emotions on that,” said assistant executive director Karen Hoyt, who oversees boys and girls basketball. Hoyt also noted the expense of at least $3,000 to install the shot clocks and an additional game expense of another clock operator.

The 2021-22 season will mark the first of the LHSAA’s new championship title sponsorship with Ochsner.

“We’re very pleased with that partnership in what we’re going to use as an education-based association with Ochsner,” Bonine said.

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Lenny Vangilder

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Lenny was involved in college athletics starting in the early 1980s, when he began working Tulane University sporting events while still attending Archbishop Rummel High School. He continued that relationship as a student at Loyola University, where he graduated in 1987. For the next 11 years, Vangilder worked in the sports information offices at Southwestern Louisiana (now UL-Lafayette) and Tulane;…

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