The thought is we are suppose to elect politicians to represent us when we elect them, no matter the level of representation.
Some hold true to serving the people, but then there are others that turn a blind eye to me and you as a tax payer and do what ever they please. Then you got politicians that want to put their hands into everything, but really could careless what they are exactly doing or the effects said legislation could do. The former is what is happening now in Tallahassee.
This time however, this really hits home for thousands of athletes and coaches in the state in over 30 sanctioned and recognized sports as supported and organized by the FHSAA.
Currently, the FHSAA is under-fire now by our elected officials, more particularly by the House Education Committee with a bill that could drastically reshape high school athletics, allow for free agency in high school athletics and basically abolish the FHSAA out of existence. That bill will be further discussed Thursday morning.
However, a similar bill – yet less abrasive at the same time – has been filed by FHSAA critic and current state senator Kelli Stargel-R, Lakeland. It keeps the FHSAA structure intact, but it also wants to abolish the FHSAA as the governing body.
The proposed bill in the House Education Committee is 60 pages long and there have been a variety of takes already about what the bill could do. SB 1480, the one filed by Senator Stargel, is 41 pages long. In other words both bills are lengthy and we can go round and round here all day about the details of each bill, but the goal is pretty clear here between both bills: Abolish the FHSAA and change eligibility requirements.
So my next question is this: Do we really need to abolish an organization that has served this state that is about to celebrate being in existence for 95 years come the next week?
Reason is simple: There is a lot of work that has been done to evolve what high school athletics is today in Florida. With the work of legislators they want to wipe all that out with a bill and the stroke of the governor’s signature if the bills are merged and make it out of both chambers intact.
The FHSAA is not a perfect organization by any means and any organization is going to have its strengths and weaknesses. However, instead of the legislators finding a way to approach the FHSAA about the issues at hand, they want to again wipe the thing away like it will just go away. Wake up Tallahassee, a bill will not wipe out the issues or the issues you are seeing as issues.
Now focusing more specifically on the proposed bill from the House Education Committee, the bill wants to wipe out the entire structure replacing it with one that seems ludicrous at best.
Instead of a 16-member board made up of the current structure that includes public school, non-public schools, representatives appointed by the commissioner (executive director), school superintendents and school board members, they rather replace it with 16 members (originally 9 members in the first draft) from traditional public schools, public schools of choice, private schools, home education cooperatives and parents of student athletes who are enrolled in such schools or programs.
So basically because we don’t have seats for a select few, Tallahassee thinks they know best and to have some association other than the FHSAA be organized with this model to serve instead of having open dialect with the FHSAA? Sure sounds like it here.
What is worse is the bill proposes taking away two major focal points that I feel are vital to the association being a connection not only to the entire state, but as a connection to the schools.
In the bill the Public Liaison Committee, which is a 15-member committee that makes suggestions and takes comments from the public on a variety of topics and issues. This is the biggest connection between the parents, the communities and the association now. Taking this away takes the biggest platform for connection to the association for most people. This is not smart thinking here.
Also the bill proposes to ditch the Representative Assembly, which in votes on new or amended bylaws and rules that ALL member schools will abide by as well. Basically it takes a power away from the schools to have a voice in how the association is operated. This takes away one part of the connection between the schools and the association. Again not smart thinking.
In all reality it is doing what one person told me: The rich get richer and the weak get weaker. By taking away these two vital parts of the association they will make the communities weaker and the schools weaker across the board AT ALL LEVELS!
What is worse, I see nothing if the existing sport committees will stay, which sports will be kept or further more how they plan to organize districts and championships in such quick time between July 2017 and August 2017. It is unrealistic to expect change this drastic to even be considered, but again Tallahassee thinks they know best and they don’t. Do they even expect an organization to come about so quickly to replace the FHSAA as they so wish?
But I am not done with this yet.
The eligibility part of this bill is what really reeks badly and we could spend all day with this. However, to cut the chase on this, that eligibility won’t have to be based by GPA, zoning, age or years of play is out-of-line.
The way this bill reads now is saying a 20-year old can play football, have a 1.5 GPA and live in the next zone over without any problems. Does anyone see the problem with this? I sure do and it is not pretty.
Overall, the eligibility seems to come down to making sure the schools are not recruiting or making sure the parents or students are recruiting. Not smart thinking here once again by Tallahassee.
And what is even worse is the school would be powerless to enforce their own rules about transfers, something the FHSAA lost a few years ago in another bill that passed, but the school districts have not lost such power at this time. Again, not smart thinking by Tallahassee in wanting to take control away from the schools.
Also appeals appears to be an area they are hitting hard on. Yes, I agree the FHSAA appeals process is rather lengthy and investigations also take rather long amounts of time, something that neither should take large amounts of time. However, this something that would be better have been approached by the Board of Directors to find a common solution to the issue. Instead, once again Tallahassee thinks they know best here and they really don’t.
Again, the FHSAA might not be “the perfect” organization and there are strengths and weaknesses, but to effectively wanting to wipe out an entire organization with peoples jobs (yes there are more than just the executive director and associate executive directors) on the line is by no means smart thinking.
The best solution to the issues is to have open dialect with the FHSAA, but because these bills only benefit a select few, they are going to make sure those folks benefit while the rest of the state suffers.
And for the closing, I suggest the House Education Committee find better things to find with their time. It is a shame that you all as elected officials that represent this state have such a nerve to find time to tinker with how high school athletics are govern in this state. Instead you all should be finding the way to help properly fund schools and help properly fund high school athletics to the fullest potential like it should be.
Furthermore, we have had over 100 coaching changes in football alone this off-season and a lot of these coaches each year cite the weakness in pay in the stipend about why they either step down or why some leave the state entirely. Do you even know that a coach could just apply and get hired for a job across the state line in Georgia and make DOUBLE what he makes right now coaching and teaching? That is what I call ludicrous.
We should have the funds for schools to be able to keep the best coaches around who are also teachers. Instead, you all are answering to a select few and not listening to your constituents and it is time you all start listening to what we the people have to say who ACTUALLY elect you into office.
It also is shame now to call myself a resident of this great state because we have become the biggest joke in the country when it comes to high school athletics because state government thinks they know more than the people that have worked inside the schools and have been coaches or athletic directors themselves.
It is time for Tallahassee to butt out once and for all out of high school athletics.
P.S. It is also a shame I had to write this column to start with, but this issue cannot be ignored anymore!