Executive committee wants status quo

Panel doesn’t want any more split championships

“I felt like it was important to let our members we’re for the LHSAA, and we’re not for any further division of it. We’re for all schools. I think we’re committed to that.” Todd guice, LHSAA president

Business as usual on the final day of the Louisiana High School Athletic Association’s annual summer meeting was anything but.

State tournament sites for softball, golf and powerlifting were decided and reports were given. But it’s the furious finish that punctuated the Friday meeting.

Within minutes, the executive committee approved one motion saying it will comply with SB 633, which was signed into law by Gov. Bobby Jindal, and another taking a stand against splitting the association in sports other than football.

With those significant actions, the two-day meeting held at the LHSAA office was over.

Twitter posts stating Gov. Jindal had signed SB633 by Sen. Dan Claitor of Baton Rouge into law triggered the last of three executive sessions called Friday. SB 633 requires third-party arbitration in eligibility cases and evolved in the aftermath of the executive committee denying an appeal by Episcopal’s Clement Mubungirwa to compete in 2014-15 as a 19-year-old during the spring.

“If the governor was going to sign it, I’m glad that it was when we were all here today,” LHSAA President Todd Guice Ouachita Parish High said. “Instead of having to work through it on a conference call, I thought it was best that we work through it while we were here.”

LHSAA Executive Director Kenny Henderson said he doubted the resolution the committee had drafted Thursday, asking Jindal not to sign SB 633, got there in time.

“My understanding is that the bill was signed sometime yesterday,” Henderson said. “What we’ll do now is Brad (Lewis, LHSAA attorney) and I will work on the terminology that we will end up putting in our (LHSAA handbook). And then we’ll have a conference call in the next two to three weeks for the committee to approve the wording.”

Henderson and Vice President Vic Bonnaffee, who becomes LHSAA president with Guice’s decision to step down after the summer meeting, said action on how to implement the new law as an LHSAA bylaw isn’t likely to come until the next executive committee meeting set for October.

There was no more waiting to see whether or not the committee would take a stand regarding the LHSAA’s select/nonselect school issues. In 2013, LHSAA member principals voted to split football championships into separate divisions for select schools, a group dominated by private schools, and nonselect or traditional public schools.

Several member principals, including Many Principal Norman Booker who spoke out in January, have called for a split in many or all sports. The LHSAA leadership took its first stand on the issue with a motion stating it was against any further split. Guice took the lead role.

“Yesterday when I told the committee I had decided to step down as president, I said I would really like to see this committee make a stand,” Guice said.

“I felt like it was important while I still had the chair to make my feelings known.

“I felt like it was important to let our members we’re for the LHSAA, and we’re not for any further division of it. We’re for all schools. I think we’re committed to that. We’re going to have to take a more active role in getting that message out and being leaders.”

Guice, who will take on the role of past-president on the committee, will be succeeded by Bonnaffee of Central Catholic-Morgan City. He said the committee’s position statement on the split is historic.

“I think the message that was portrayed today shows a gigantic step for the Louisiana High School Athletic Association’s executive committee,” Bonnaffee said. “We have come together publicly and made a statement for the entire association. I do not recollect in my years of being on this committee that a statement like this has come out.”

Henderson said the statement is pivotal for his staff.

“I think we all have our direction now,” Henderson said. “I’ve been asking for that for quite some time. That brief little statement gives me some direction.”

West Ouachita’s Mickey Merritt was elected as vice president to fill Bonnaffee’s spot. Both will serve until the LHSAA’s annual convention in January 2015.

Longtime softball tournament host Sulphur was awarded the LHSAA’s softball tourney for four more years. Lafayette was selected to host boys and girls golf for the next two years. Three Lafayette area courses — Oakbourne, The Wetlands and The Farm — will be utilized.

International High School of New Orleans was approved for membership for 2014-15, while the committee also approved Baton Rouge-based Capitol to remain as a member after becoming Capitol Charter School.

An appeal by another student seeking eligibility as a ninth-grader, Destrehan’s O’Neil Legendre, was denied during Friday’s meeting.