NEW ORLEANS – Eddie Bonine, the new Louisiana High School Athletic Association Executive Director, had one message in his first public appearance Saturday in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
The former Nevada athletics official wants to gather as much information as possible during his early tenure to “ensure the best experience” for high school athletes.
Bonine didn’t have specific comments about the LHSAA football split between select and nonselect schools or the possible proposal to split all sports expected to be discussed in January.
But he did say that every member, select and nonselect, “is the LHSAA,” emphasizing his mission to unify the association.
“At this particular juncture, my job is to get as much information as I can to find out how Louisiana got to where they are on the split decision,” Bonine said. “I’ll discuss with the individuals who made that decision … and meet with principals and others to see what the opinion really is.
“I don’t want to be in a position for whatever we come up with to be pushed through … we want solid policy moving forward. We need to make sure that what we do isn’t affecting certain groups but is powerful for everybody.”
Bonine added that he’s a “white board” guy, meaning that while he wants to try a certain piece of legislation for several years, he’s not against making changes if something isn’t working.
LHSAA president Vic Bonnaffee said the choice of Bonine, who’s served in various positions in Nevada including the executive director of the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association (NIAA’s), is an attempt to “re-establish the trust, respect, and transparency” by bringing in an official with no previous allegiances.
“We had two questions we wanted to answer – where was the (LHSAA) and where is the (LHSAA) right now in history? And what does the LHSAA need as an organization for a person to be able to lead us and have the leadership style we believe is so very necessary,” Bonnaffee said. “We’ve spent 20 years discussing internally about what solutions the LHSAA needs, and we’ve got brilliant, intelligent, qualified people in this state.
“But at this time with my vote, I felt it was important to bring somebody in with national exposure and with various leadership experiences to objectively look at issues in the LHSAA and be able to take an approach that is objective, qualified and collaborative. We needed a fresh outlook.”
Bonine served as the NIAA’s executive director for the past seven years after participating at various levels of administration including as a principal (three years), athletics director (four years) and coach. He’s served on the NIAA Board of Control (eight years), the National Federation of State High School Associations Strategic Planning Committee (two years) and on the National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Associations Athletic Advisory Committee (four years).
“I’m experienced in building all kinds of relationships,” Bonine said. “I’m comfortable going to the school boards … and meeting superintendents.
“I have an open door communication policy, and I had good relationships with coaches, officials … and have experience with state legislatures.”
The NIAA is a much smaller association with about 110 schools compared to about 390 in the LHSAA.
The NIAA is also a public school organization that admitted some private schools as members, including national power Bishop Gorman.
Bonine didn’t make a direct reference to Bishop Gorman, but he said he was asked by the NIAA board of control to inquire about “a periennal power” leaving the NIAA to play on the national circuit.
“It’s not true that I tried to kick a private school out of our organization,” Bonine said. “I was asked to approach that school and asked them if they were interested in changing memberships and play a national circuit.
“(Nevada) had nowhere the number of schools … but I’ve dealt with those feelings. The volume is a little louder here (in Louisiana).”
One draw for Bonine to Louisiana is wife and New Orleans native Christine, a Mount Carmel Academy graduate.
Bonine has two children – Collin, a high school freshman and an athlete along with seventh-grader Caleb, also an athlete.
What better way to acquaint oneself with LHSAA rules than going through the process of choosing the proper school for your children?
“Things like establishing residency, my family is in that process,” Bonine said. “Where are we zoned, where do we go to school, what’s our (school) of first choice?
“We’re going to play by the same rules as everybody else. (As an executive director), I’ll look closely at the regulations for transfers and making bona fide moves. I believe people should have (school) choices … but with the choice you make, there’s guidelines. You can’t expect to go to a school zoned for, leave to go to another school and expect full eligibility from the get-go.”
Bonine stressed that the executive committee’s main goal in making rulings will be consistency.
The 6-foot-4 Bonine said he’s a “big sponge” that will absorb information quickly.
No start date has been decided for Bonine, although Bonine said he’ll spend 17 days in Louisiana in January developing relationships. Anderson will continue to serve in his capacity. Under Bonine’s NIAA contract, he’s required to provide 90 days of notice, according to The Record-Courier (Nevada).
Former LHSAA executive director Kenny Henderson and the association mutually ended Henderson’s seven-tenure in late October, and Jimmy Anderson has served as the interim executive director since that time.