Recent lawsuit by nine schools, none local, seeks LHSAA playoff revamp


In the latest round of strife about the Louisiana High School Athletic Association’s select/non-select playoff system launched last summer, nine north and central Louisiana high schools have filed suit against the governing body of Louisiana high school athletics. 

But no local schools took action. Notably uninvolved in the suit is Northwood, whose principal, Shannon Wall, has been a prominent critic of the current setup.  

The group is seeking to overturn the select/non-select playoff system for all sports and all schools, citing what they perceive as an abuse of power by LHSAA executive director Eddie Bonine. The group claims Bonine did not have the authority to revise a glossary definition in the organization’s handbook — which enabled the change of the playoff system, expanding it to all sports and encompassing all schools. 

The group claims the term “select” is defined in the glossary and was changed unilaterally by Bonine based on issues impacting a majority of LHSAA schools. 

The LHSAA disagrees, saying the change last summer was made by the organization’s Executive Committee for the good of the organization. The new definition stated that any school with magnet components, all charter schools, and schools located in open enrollment parishes would be considered select schools.  

Filing suit were three Monroe schools and six in Rapides Parish. Rapides, Glenmora, Northwood-Lena, Plainview, Tioga, and Buckeye are the Rapides Parish schools involved in the suit. Neville, Carroll, and Wossman are the Monroe schools participating in the 11-page complaint.  

Northwood was making plans to join the suit before a Caddo principals meeting this summer produced the directive that no parish school would be involved in litigation against the LHSAA.  

 Wall began making preparations to join the suit  — going so far as to solicit community support on social media for potential litigation — before his initiative halted. 

“Like every school in the parish, we are part of the Caddo Parish School Board,” Wall told the Shreveport-Bossier Journal. “So as an individual school, we cannot be a part of a lawsuit.”  

Baton Rouge attorney Brian Blackwell, who filed the suit, told Baton Rouge Advocate prep editor Robin Fambrough the group is seeking a court date before August 31 — when the LHSAA regular season begins for football.  

“I have a letter that states that Mr. Bonine made the change and that’s the problem,” Blackwell told Fambrough. 

The complaints from the group mirror those that Wall expressed to Aaron Dietrich on the Monroe TV and radio personality’s Morning Drive radio show way back on January 24.  

“I asked Mr. Bonine in our last meeting, if this is a principals’ organization, we want to know the group of principals who went to them and asked them to do this for us,” Wall said in that interview. “His answer was that no principal went to him to implement this action. They (the LHSAA Executive Committee) thought it was best.”  

The executive committee includes principals representing all regions of the state. 

The plan issued last summer was to be reconsidered in last January’s LHSAA business meeting, but was deferred for discussion after the school year so as not to disrupt ongoing seasons. Principals and athletic directors opposed to maintaining the new plan could not marshal a substantial number of administrators to take part in an in-person meeting or even a Zoom session in the last two months, with only about 30 attending a summit at Tioga. 

Unless the lawsuit is upheld, next January’s LHSAA meeting seems to be the upcoming opportunity for opponents to successfully instigate some changes.