(The following views and opinions expressed of those of Todd Black and do not directly reflect those of 104.5 ESPN Baton Rouge or Guaranty media.)
During last summer LHSAA Executive Director Eddie Bonine sent a private email to his former NFHS colleagues describing the LHSAA as a ‘Dumpster Fire’. This email was leaked by a former LHSAA staff member; she also was a coach and athlete in this state who happened to apply to be the successor of Kenny Henderson. Intent, of course. From there, Executive Committee members made sure it landed on the doorstep of The Daily Advertiser. We will come back to this.
In taking this job, Eddie Bonine jumped into a hornet’s nest, better yet a dysfunctional hornets nest. Bet you thought that was impossible; me too until I sat in a LHSAA Executive Committee meeting. In December of 2014 when Bonine was hired, then President of the Executive Committee Vic Bonnaffee even said “this thing runs deeper than people know.” speaking of the LHSAA’s situation. That is the understatement of the century so bare with me. Here we go.
I’m gonna start in June of 2014 when now Executive Committee President Niles Riche made a motion that read “the LHSAA Executive Committee wishes there be no further division of the LHSAA.” All Committee members voted yes but Tommy Hodges. Currently there are a minimum 16 members that still sit on the EC but somehow their ‘motion’ got conveniently overlooked. Can you pick and choose which motions you want to adhere to and which you don’t? But this was an obvious sign, at that time, the Committee was looking to go in a different direction.
Therefore the Executive Committee made it clear to Bonine and Bonine made it clear to the membership his top priority is finding out the issues that plagued this state between public and private schools. Along the same priority was doing what was best for of all of Louisiana’s student-athletes. “Why an outsider?” would be asked multiple times. The logical answer is if the Executive Committee wanted things to stay the same, just hire someone from Louisiana. Needless to say, the last two Executive Directors from Louisiana have cost the Association financially over 1 million dollars; this is not what was best for the state and its student-athletes.
Nonetheless, with the Committee committed to a new direction, behind the scenes, Jane Griffin encourages Norman Booker “not to back down especially with everything we have accomplished.” In this same thread of emails between the two, Booker admits he knew about the Henderson firing due to “leaks in the Executive Committee.” During Bonine’s tenure, he has been frustrated by multiple leaks by this committee. I personally have seen the leaks through my Freedom of Information request where Bonine’s personal assistant sent confidential emails of Bonine’s to former commissioner Tommy Henry. Bonine would notify the Executive Committee that 6 weeks after his first day on the job, he knew Executive Committee members had already started to plot against him via email chains.
Former commissioner Tommy Henry hit this hornets nest with a broomstick by sending multiple opinionated emails to committee members. Henry has not only been a thorn in Bonine’s side but every student-athlete’s side in the state. While Henry’s motives are unclear, Bonine’s were not; Bonine wanted to include a former commissioner back into the LHSAA where as the last regime ostracized him. As they say, no good deed goes unpunished, Henry would start an unbelievable email chain between himself and Jane Griffin that makes “As the World Turns” look drama free. In this email chain, Griffins motives were clear; she wanted/wants Bonine fired. After Henry had called Bonine a snake, along with telling Griffin “you can’t trust him (Bonine)” among other things, Griffin returns the favor by asking Henry twice in March of 2016, his opinion on “did they have grounds” to fire Bonine. One reason Griffin wanted Bonine fired was because Bonine “testified (in front of the legislature) and it was clear he was against the split. As Executive Director, it did not seem he tried to defend the LHSAA. Is this in conflict of his contract? Do we have grounds?” Griffin then follows up by sending confidential information, portions of Bonine’s contract, to Henry; again asking “what do you think?”
My personal experience with Griffin and the Executive Committee verifies the dysfunction everyone on the outside sees. I had the opportunity to make public comments in a December EC meeting. After completion, Dr Griffin was allowed to make a comment. A portion of her comment toward me included “I never emailed Mr. Henry asking him anything”; I told Griffin “you asked if we had grounds”; she adamantly denied emailing Henry at all. I have at least 20 emails between the two. She lied, the committee knew she lied, but not a word was said. Following her attempt to discredit me, she confronted me in front of two local journalist. She continued to make a fool of herself until Sharon Clark literally had to pull her away from me.
It is no secret the original 2013 proposal by Griffin was as well thought out as the interstate system through Baton Rouge. But every time Griffin opens her mouth, her lack of knowledge becomes more and more obvious in regards to the LHSAA. Case in point, she admitted that she doesn’t know what goes on in other parishes, but she knows what goes on in hers. Well, don’t you think if you are going to make a proposal for the entire state your knowledge should exceed just your own parish? Griffin also made the comment to Bonine “I don’t think you were hired to get the association back together.” Tommy Hodges and Sharon Clark have both made similar statements; but to clarify Todd Guice read from the 2014 meeting minutes reminding committee members the questions that THEY unanimously approved to be asked in the interview process. Mr. Bonine was indeed to get the association back together. Yet, Griffin, Hodges, Clark and others have plotted to get Bonine fired. Why? For doing the job they asked him to do?
Upon realizing these circumstances, Sharon Clark has apologized to Bonine acknowledging ‘we have set you up for failure’. In regards to the split Clark publicly said “It doesn’t matter to me, my athletic teams aren’t any good.” This has to make Bonine feel confident.
In January of 2016, Griffin told her colleagues her 2013 proposal was constitutional; “it was validated by people who know a lot more about the LHSAA than Mr. Bonine or I. I think Mr. Bonine was premature in his press conference.” Another lie by Griffin. It was not validated; The 2013 legal opinion that the LHSAA paid $10,000 for said the 2013 proposal was out of order. (The current LHSAA attorney agrees with this legal opinion) Not to mention, Griffins proposal was submitted way past the due date of November 15, 2012. Mr. Bonine and his legal team were 100% correct in calling the press conference. Again, enforcing the rules and articles of the Constitution, Mr. Bonine was made to look like the bad guy. This also made him public school enemy #1.
In June of 2016, shortly after the Dumpster Fire article, Tommy Hodges took this opportunity to get rid of Bonine. Again, for what? The word got out and when confronted, Hodges did not ‘man-up’ to his actions. However during the July EC meeting, Hodges was the first and only Committee member to approach the LHSAA attorney on changing the agenda; Hodges also later admitted to speaking to the LHSAA attorney about Bonine’s contract. But before any of this, Hodges asked for the LHSAA’s legal team opinion. Why? Again Committee members wanting to pick and choose when they want to follow legal advice. It’s the most asinine rationale I have ever come across; especially if the well-being of kids are at stake.
Jane Griffin upon hearing about the “Dumpster Fire” article said in an email to the executive committee “I am mortified at the negative view of the LHSAA given to all who have seen it and the false impressions given. We are a PROUD organization.” This woman is the exact reason the LHSAA is a dumpster fire. Griffin should be riding on the back of a garbage truck with as much garbage as she has contributed.
Meanwhile Hodges who represents Districts 7-12, Class 2A has his own idea of what “represents” means. The schools Hodges represent have voted to not have a split…..twice. Hodges simply does not care what they want. Just as Hodges sold out his teammates in high school, he sold out his peers as a “Representative”. Is this agenda driven? Absolutely. Griffin and Hodges who represent both public and private schools, ONLY email public school principals when disseminating information about meetings, etc… on the split. Why? Agenda driven? Absolutely!
After the January 2016 expanded split vote, Bonine’s LHSAA staff sent out mock brackets of the expanded split. Very few Committee members disseminated to their Principals; why? They looked pathetic. In March, because of the lack of integrity in the brackets, Bonine called on the School Relations Committee to come up with some alternative plans. Norman Booker who served on the SRC was in favor of their plan; this according to another one of Jane Griffin’s emails to Tommy Henry.
Mr. Bonine, looking out for the best interest of the LHSAA, informed there was multiple issues with the expanded split proposal. 1) The LHSAA staff had a major issue with the brackets which included BYE’s and losing teams’ lack of integrity; 2) The championship events would be lessened for each student-athlete due to the amount of teams at each venue; 3) The LHSAA has huge budget issues and the expanded split would come at a cost of $100,000 and loss of sponsorship. This was brought out in the April 2016 Executive Committee meeting. Even though the expanded split put a huge strain on the Association, the EC voted only by a narrow margin 11-10 to give the membership an opportunity to pick another option that might be best suited for the LHSAA. Plain and simple, Griffin, Hodges, Rowland, Sampson, Clark, Dyess, Bellard DID NOT care about the Association; only their school. However when these same Committee members notified the membership of the June meeting, the ONLY portion the committee told the membership was Bonine was trying to undermine the principals and this was all about ‘not doing what the principals wanted.’ Again, false information and manipulation only hurts the student-athletes of our state.
Here is what most principals fail to understand. Just as a coach makes decisions based on 15, 20 or 50 players, Bonine makes decisions based on what’s best for the entire Association. When parents watch their son or daughter’s team play, they “see only one player”, therefore basing their decisions on one. In this circumstance, Bonine is the coach and the Executive Committee are the parents. If the parents don’t get what they want, they always blame the coach; if the coach doesn’t do what the parents want; they want a new one.
As good coaches normally do, they keep the high road. The LHSAA is a dumpster fire; the executive committee is the reason why. Bonine told the parents their child was not good enough to break the starting line-up and the parents got their feelings hurt. The fact Bonine called it what it is should be a warning sign to everyone in Louisiana.
The bottom line is this. Six weeks into the job, Bonine was quite certain he had not/would not be given an ‘honest chance’ as the leader of the LHSAA. The one thing that has been consistent within the entire Association since March 1, 2015 is Eddie Bonine. Doing what is best for the student-athletes has been his priority since day one. Bonine was told early on by principals, coaches and athletic directors on a task force he formed, “Enforce the rules of the constitution and handbook; we cannot pick and choose which rules apply to which schools.” Bonine has done this very thing; he has made rulings versus public and private schools during his years as director of the LHSAA. Bonine has maintained the high-road while most of the Executive Committee drive on a dirt road. So with all of the manipulation and deceit toward Bonine, you have to wonder what drives him to stay in the worst possible work environment possible! In athletics you learn to be accountable, have integrity and overcome adversity. John Wooden said “Be more worried about your character than reputation; your character is who you really are; your reputation is who people perceive you to be.”
When Bonine started his first day as LHSAA Commissioner, he found out that the Association had a $1.2 million balloon payment due in 90 days. Bonine was told no bank would take the loan; not only did Bonine find a lender, the LHSAA building is now paid IN FULL. Next, 25 days into his contract, Bonine was summoned to the Louisiana State Legislature. A bill was drafted that would change the overall operational structure and post season participation of the association. Bonine gained resolve and immediately began ‘mending the fences’ between the legislature and the LHSAA which was one of Bonine’s task given to him by the Executive Committee. Later, Bonine was accused of “being too cozy” and orchestrating a collaborative and elaborate governmental takeover of the LHSAA. However, this didn’t slow Bonine down. The Louisiana High School Officials Association threatened a work stoppage in the Fall of 2015. Bonine renegotiated a four year contract and the student-athletes were able to play on after that. The LHSAA also hosted the National Federation Summer Meeting Convention; 90 day window, no leg work, nothing had been initiated or planned.
Other Bonine accomplishments:
-Frivolous and unapproved spending.
– Personal use of Association vehicles.
– Unpaid leave turned into cash.
– American Express used for personal meals.
– Building funds. Should have had 1.6 million; had $675,000.
Cut 1.2 million from operational budget.
– Established salary schedules for all LHSAA staff.
– Staff Evaluation Rubric (none were in place)
– Critical staff complications such as harassment, unhealthy work environment (moral issues; enhanced building security)
Executive Director Evaluation Rubric – he wanted an evaluation metrics for himself. He wants the Executive Committee to evaluate him.
I’m gonna end on that, but to let you know I have written down at least three pages of accomplishments by Bonine. I want you to ask yourself a question. If a person created an evaluation process for himself, do you think he would “set himself up to fail”? To accomplish the things Bonine has accomplished, in this type of work environment tells you the type of man he is. If any of you were in his shoes, can you blame him for looking elsewhere? Who wants to be somewhere were they are not wanted or appreciated? None of us but this is exactly the environment our state’s Principals have created for Bonine but yet he continues to work diligently for our kids. That is Eddie Bonine’s character.