Claude A. Swanson, a Senator in the early 1900’s, gave advice to incoming politicians, it was simple; “when in doubt, do the right thing.” Swansons rule means that when in doubt between the success of doing the wrong thing (such as self interest) and doing the right thing for constituents, if things are equal or in doubt, the right thing should be done.
I’m old school when it comes to core beliefs. I believe if a man does not have his word, he has nothing. I believe a person’s true character is shown in their actions and I believe a person who has integrity will do the right thing even when no one is watching. Of all the people in our society who may exemplify these traits, principals would have to be at the top of the list. At some point in our lives, most of us have put our children’s well-being in the hands of a high school principal. Trust plays a major factor in that decision.
The membership of the LHSAA consists of high school principals whose school participates athletically under the LHSAA. Every rule in the handbook has been written by a principal, including the rule (proposal) to split the LHSAA’s playoff format between private and public schools. At the time (January 2013), I knew there were questions surrounding the legality of this proposal, but I did not know to what extent.
Per the LHSAA Constitution:
For the 2013 Convention, all proposals were due by November 15, 2012. The purpose is for the Executive Committee, Executive Director and Legal to approve the proposals and set the agenda for the upcoming Convention. The LHSAA shall make available the agenda at least 15 days prior to the meeting. The dates of the 2013 Convention was January 28-30.
2013 Football Split Proposal Timeline:
According to an article published in The Times-Picayune, the proposal was filed on Saturday, January 19, 2013. Already, this proposal is ‘out of order’ with the Constitution and we have yet to view the content.
Contents of Proposal which are ‘Out of Order’ with LHSAA Constitution:
- A proposal/author cannot create divisions for a sport in which divisions do not exist. This is the duty of the Executive Committee. Only classes existed in football, basketball, baseball and softball.
- A school may not participate in a classification below that mandated by its enrollment. (4A/B played down to Classes 3A/C)
- Schools may choose to play in a higher classification for the post-season. (3A/C did not choose to play up against Class 4A/B)
- Schools participating in football shall be classified every two years using the one-fifth principle for each class.
After the Convention, then Executive Director Kenny Henderson, paid $10,000 for an outside legal opinion. In March 2013, Henderson said that legal opinion stated, “There has not been a definitive, clear answer. It depends on how you want to interpret it.” What’s the purpose of a legal opinion again?
There was very little, if anything, done right with the 2013 split proposal. But unfortunately, that didn’t stop the bad decisions from continuing.
In March 2015, a new Executive Director took over the reigns for the LHSAA, Eddie Bonine. After Bonine’s first eight months as Director, the membership wanted to expand the split playoff format to include basketball, baseball, and softball. While reviewing the submitted proposals for the 2016 Annual Convention, the LHSAA’s legal team advised Bonine the 2013 Proposal was ‘out of order’ with the LHSAA’s Constitution. The legal team also advised Bonine the outside legal opinion received in 2013 deemed the proposal ‘out of order’ as well.
After the expanded split passed, I attended my first Executive Committee meeting. The environment was hostile, defensive, and tense. The discussions were not about ‘doing what was right’ for the entire Association. The Committee was informed the new expanded split brackets would create hundreds of Byes, allow teams with no wins in the playoffs and could financially cost the Association money in terms of sponsorships. The Committee simply did not care. The unprofessionalism on display by these principals at this meeting would in no way be tolerated by their superintendents. This meeting defined dysfunction. This dysfunction was hurting the student-athletes, so I started digging.
I started with accessing committee members emails via the Freedom of Information Act. It was during this process I learned why the meetings were so unprofessional. Email after email, these Committee members were ‘back-stabbing’ each other while pushing a false narrative to drive their agenda. To this day, parents, coaches, athletic directors, superintendents, administrators, and principals have supported this Committee’s cowardly, manipulative actions. Yet, a lot of the same people want to complain about someone who has partially turned a wrong into a right?
After 9 years of watching this trophy appeasing, watered down, circus of a playoff system, ‘the right thing’ has been done. My argument all along has been, “if you are going to split, do it right.” Over 50% of public schools can accept kids out of zone. As of last week, this has now been addressed.
Clarifying the criteria for ‘select’ had to be done IF the association wanted to stay split. The terms Magnet, Charter, Dual-Curriculum, and Lab Schools were already being used when determining what a ‘select school’ would look like. However, the way schools were being designated seemed biased or at best, inconsistent. For instance, twenty-five percent was the threshold for determining out of zone students. Schools over that 25% were deemed select. In 2018, Lafayette Parish which is an open enrollment parish, enrolled close to 30% out of zone students; their designation remained non-select. More examples, Southern Lab and U High are Lab Schools classified as select. Lincoln Prep (formerly Grambling) is a Lab School designated ‘non-select.’ Scotlandville and McKinley are magnet schools classified as ‘select.’ Why are magnet schools such as Amite, Hammond and Bonnabel designed non-select? Charter schools: Everyone wants to complain about Madison Prep being non-select, but no one questioned the non-select designation of Delhi, Delta, and Beekman Charters? You want to know why?
People would rather make excuses for why they lost opposed to getting better. One more time in a different way, it is easier to make excuses than it is to get better. For Example, Principal Jane Griffin of Winnfield, author of the 2013 proposal, points to John Curtis and their success as rationale that all private schools recruit. What Ms. Griffin doesn’t tell you is, in 2011 & 2012, other than Curtis, her team was 7-0 vs private schools including a 1st Round 70-0 win over non-select Jeanerette.
I recently read this quote on Twitter, “I’ll be pushing to get out of open enrollment. The school is getting looped into a group that has a higher percentage of open enrollment.” Coach, private schools followed the rules given to them by the LHSAA and were punished for it and schools like yours supported that punishment. And yes, private schools all got ‘looped in’ together.
Take a second and think about this. Private schools were punished for following the rules of the LHSAA Constitution. Isn’t it kind of ironic that an Executive Committee had to go outside the Constitution to prevent schools from doing what is allowed by their Constitution? You can’t make this up.
I don’t care if you like the split or not; that’s not what this is about. This is about an Executive Director and his staff putting in a lot of work for the student-athletes of this state. This is about the Executive Committee and their President acknowledging there was an on-going issue that did not serve in the best interest of all student-athlete’s in this state, so they did the best they could to rectify a garbage proposal.
This Executive Committee meeting was set 6 weeks ago. The LHSAA prepared for 50-75 admin or coaches to speak for or against Options 1, 2 or 3. Only one principal attended.
By: Todd Black