LHSAA select-non-select split in football may be at an end

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In 2013, the Louisiana High School Athletic Association’s general assembly voted to divide the association into select and non-select schools for the football playoffs only.

In a Friday morning press conference, LHSAA Executive Director Eddie Bonine said the move violated the organization’s constitution.

Before going to a vote before the general assembly, the motion for the split should have been put before the LHSAA’s Executive Committee for approval under the constitution, Bonine said.

Bonine said the discovery was made during a review of the agenda items for the annual convention Jan. 27-29 and based on the opinion of LHSAA attorney Mark Boyer.

“During this process it was discovered that the LHSAA constitution and prescribed procedures as it pertains to classification and divisional changes had not been adhered to correctly in 2013 when voting on the select and non-select. Specifically those additions without the approval of the executive committee should not have been approved,” said Bonine, who was hired nine months ago.

Bonine did not specify what Friday’s announcement means for the LHSAA going forward, but it could mean an end to the split, he said, based on Boyer’s opinion. According to some media reports, the finding means that the LHSAA is reverting immediately to its pre-2013 format of seven classes, including two non-football.

“The communication I received from Mark was that in this case he feels that we violated the constitution,” Bonine told the Baton Rouge Advocate following the press conference. “And if that’s the case, the split then becomes null and void and I believe we go back to where we were before the split.”

The split divided the organization into select and non-select classes and divisions for the playoffs. The select divisions consist of mainly private schools and some magnet, charter and lab schools. The non-select classes consist of public schools. In the last three football seasons, nine state champions were crowned in five non-select classes and four select divisions.

Some schools wanted a split in all sports and still do, according to media reports. There was also some concerned that private schools would break away from the LHSAA and form their own organization. Arguments also have been put forth, especially in the media, saying there are no “true champions” under the select-non-select system.

When the vote was taken at the 2013 annual convention, all six Bossier Parish principals voted for the split.

At that time, some principals across the state questioned the constitutionality of the split based on an item that says the LHSAA should be divided into five classes for football.

According to the Advocate, the current item in question in the constitution is 8.7.2: “Divisions involving two or more classifications may be created by the Executive Committee to provide competition in certain sports. The Executive Committee shall place schools in districts on an annual basis, if necessary.”

Because of the new information, some items on the convention’s agenda may require “additional scrutiny,” Bonine said.

One item that has been tossed around is a metro-rural plan that would put all schools into divisions based on their proximity to the state’s largest metro areas.

Bonine also called the timing of the new information “horrible” with the convention less than two weeks away.

He will be discussing the convention’s agenda in meetings across the state. The first one is Tuesday at Airline at 8:30 a.m.

— Russell Hedges, rhedges@bossierpress.com