Andrew Robison’s battle with the LHSAA is far from over

Andrew Robison appeared on Sports Talk with Deuce McAllister and Kristian Garic

Kristian Garic
September 18, 2018 - 5:06 pm

In some states high school ball matters very little.  In Southeast Louisiana, some small towns shut down on Friday nights for the competition & communal celebration of prep football.  That’s why a controversial decision, that could forever change the course of one high school quarterback’s life, has struck a powerful, emotional chord in our community.  I’m talking students, teachers, principals, parents, coaches, even business & political leaders - everybody has an opinion. 

High school football means everything down here in Louisiana.  And this one case, one hearing of Hahnville High quarterback Andrew Robison has crystalized the term “everything.” 

The LHSAA (Louisiana High School Athletic Association) and executive committee presided over an appeal hearing for Hahnville High School senior QB Andrew Robison.  Robison was suspended for a year, because the LHSAA alleges he wore the jersey of Hahnville High during a photo shoot for Louisiana High School Football Magazine, before he was enrolled in the school.  That, they say, is a violation.  Robison and Hahnville High appealed the season-long suspension handed to him by the LHSAA in late August.  At the appeal, the committee decided to uphold the original ruling handed down by LHSAA executive director Eddie Bonine. 

At issue - was the hearing fair?  

Robison played three seasons in Houma, Louisiana for Vandebilt Catholic.  After his father lost his job as a teacher and coach at the school, the Robison family looked for other options and settled on Luling in St. Charles parish.  Luling is in the school district of Hahnville High School.  

According to eyewitness reports, during the appeal in front of fourteen members of the executive committee comprised of principals from other schools, there seemed to be a bias against Robison and for the LHSAA.  Committee members were looking at their cell phones seemingly disinterested in the presentation from Hahnville High School and Andrew Robison. 

The senior quarterback was fighting for his last season of high school football, and perhaps the next five years of his life. 

Andrew Robison appeared on WWL Radio’s Sports Talk with Deuce McAllister, and me, Kristian Garic to talk about it. You learn quickly why this young man is so highly thought of; he looks at this suspension as a moment of growth, “I’m still on the football team; I still have a duty...just like the rest of the players on this team,” Andrew told me. 

Truth is, Robison’s role is vastly different than that of a starting QB.  He can’t suit up during games, so he watches film with the team.  He scouts for his teammates.  He lines up on the scout team for his teammates during practice. 

The future is still uncertain for Andrew Robison, who is considered one of the top 60 senior prospects in the highly recruited state of Louisiana. “I have this fire inside of me, I have this anger and passion inside of me that I will take to wherever I take my next snap,” Robinson said.  

I was blown away by the maturity of this 18 year old young man. “This could help me in the long run.  This is going to make me a lot stronger for my future,” he added. 

Initially Andrew Robison and his family were extremely disappointed and deflated by the committee hearing.  Now they vow that more legal options are going to be exercised.  

After hearing of the committee’s decision to uphold the season-long suspension, Robison innocently asked the fourteen member panel, “What could I have done differently?”  The committee had no answer, only silence.

Here’s some background.  When Robison was approached to be on the cover of the Louisiana High School football magazine he went to his former head coach at Vandebilt Catholic, Jeremy Atwell, and asked to wear Vandebilt’s jersey.  According to Robison, Atwell told him, “No you can’t wear it, it would not be a good look for me.”  In Andrew’s mind this left him no other choice but to wear the jersey of the school he would soon be attending, Hahnville High.  “I had no choice; I had to wear my Hahnville jersey,” said Robison.  

The Robison family made sure the enrollment process at Hahnville was underway, before he wore the jersey.  Robison got the jersey through another Hahnville football player with permission from Hahnville High Coach Saltaformagio. 

“Through the whole thing there was not one rule broken,” said Andrew Robison.  The LHSAA is saying that jersey enticed Robison to enroll at Hahnville.  Robison disagrees, “It’s not enticement; I asked for the jersey, because we couldn’t get one from Coach Atwell (Vandebilt Catholic head coach) and we had started the enrollment process at Hahnville,” Robison explained. 

More background.  Andrew’s dad worked for Vandebilt last season as a teacher and assistant football coach, and his contract was not renewed at the end of the school year. “When they didn’t renew my Dad’s contract, it was clear to our family, and I thought God made it clear to us, that we were not going to be able to stay due to lots of reasons, and tuition costs being the biggest one,” Andrew said.  That’s when the relationship between Robison and Atwell started to deteriorate.  “That’s when my former coach realized we wouldn’t be able to stay at Vandebilt,” Robison explained.  

Upon learning of Robison’s decision to play at Hahnville, Atwell allegedly threatened Robison saying he would damage efforts to recruit him by college teams, and said, “I hope Hahnville has a terrible season.”  Atwell didn’t take the news well.  “I think the competitive side in him came out a little bit,” Robison said of his former coach Atwell.  

After Andrew’s father’s contract wasn’t renewed by the school, Atwell offered his father a deal.  According to a source close to the situation, it included supplemental income, if he stayed on the staff as a volunteer assistant coach.  Atwell allegedly told Drew Robison (Andrew’s father) that Andrew’s tuition at Vandebilt would be taken care of.  

That too is a violation according the LHSAA rules.  It’s a violation the Robinson family brought to the attention of investigators.  It’s a violation that was ignored by the LHSAA in the committee, according to Drew Robison. 

Andrew Robison insists that with half of his family’s income now gone, the tuition cost was the reason he had to leave Vandebilt. “We could not pay the tuition, so we had no choice,” said the frustrated QB.  “We were told by the principal and coach Atwell that if I wanted to go to Terrebonne High School (in nearby Houma) he (Atwell) would not sign the consent form,” continued Robison.  Virtually sending him to Hahnville high.  

According to Robison Coach Atwell even told him that if he wanted to go to Hahnville, “I will make that happen.” 

Robison says he chose Hahnville for several reasons, “It’s closer to the airport for my mom’s business.  Our church is in New Orleans.”  Andrew’s mother travels for work once a month for an architect firm. 

A high school football senior, who is now facing the prospect of never playing high school football again, sits with little hope of a reversal, but takes the suspension in stride.  This hasn’t impacted Hahnville High, but the entire high school football community in Louisiana. Robison and his family have received an outpouring of support from across the state.

I’ve spent the better part of 48 hours trying to get to the bottom of this, and have more questions than answers right now.  One thing I can assure you, high school football fans are incensed and demanding a total dismantlement of the governing body of high school sports in this state.  Or, at the very least some oversight and accountability for the LHSAA. In some states the governing body answers to state government.  Here in Louisiana, the LHSAA answers to no one. 

This situation is like a divorce where mom and dad drag the kids into it.  Unfortunately, Robison isn’t a two year old lacking total awareness.  He’s dialed in and in tune. 

His principal at Hahnville High School, Brian Lumar, joined our show too.  Lumar says he’s lost sleep over the upheld ruling from the LHSAA committee and wonders how the fourteen member panel can sleep at night.  

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