Although a lot of people want to paint high school athletic organizations as finger-waving, rule nerds who get their kicks from tossing out the eligibility of teenagers, let's be honest: They're about the only thing that separates the prep level from becoming an open meat market like... well, the NCAA.
But there's actually some pressure afoot looking to undermine the Florida High School Athletic Association.
In response, the association says high school athletics in the state is close to becoming a free agency disaster.
"Although these legislators mean well, unfortunately, this legislation opens the door to nefarious people who might want to circumvent the rules," FHSAA Executive Director Roger Dearing said during a Tuesday conference call.
There are currently two bills working through the Legislature that could cut down the organization's power. Both Senate Bill 1164, sponsored by Republican Kelli Stargel, and House Bill 1279, submitted by GOP Rep. Larry Metz, would defund the FHSAA and take away its regulatory muscle.
The bills offer a hefty lineup of changes: They would clip the association's budget, seriously attenuate the process by which eligibility is tossed out, reshuffle the organization's board so it's made up of political appointees, and -- the most boneheaded idea here -- allow students to transfer schools midway through the year without sacrificing their eligibility.
"The last thing that these kids need is a process that allows open recruiting of high school athletes," chimed in Reidel Anthony, a former Tampa Bay Bucs receiver and the current offensive coordinator at Palm Beach County powerhouse Glades Central High School.
"The idea that a kid can live in one part of town, play football in another part of town, and transfer to another school to play basketball, that isn't what high school sports is all about."
Considering Florida has a pretty significant record of high school sports shenanigans, you've got to wonder where this push is coming from. Dearing told WFSU that a vocal group of parents who were previously caught forging their kids' residency records are in legislators' ears.
Couple that minority outrage with the general red-state distaste for government funding and you just might have the support to pass one of these suckers. The interest groups lining up against the FHSAA paint the group as an overzealous witch-hunt machine sucking off the government gravy train. Expect this head-to-head to stay interesting as the session continues. What's at stake? Basically the sanctity of the last clean (err... or at least semiclean) athletic arena out there.
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