The Florida High School Athletic Association (FHSAA) today announced the support of the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) in its efforts against proposed legislation that would damage the integrity of high school sports in Florida, and potentially across the nation. The NFHS joined the Florida association in denouncing House Bill 1279 and Senate Bill 1164, which would tear down barriers that prevent dishonest coaches and unscrupulous adults from recruiting impressionable young athletes.
Yesterday, in an extraordinary step, the NFHS Board of Directors – meeting in Indianapolis – unanimously approved a resolution supporting the FHSAA.
“These bad bills need to be stopped from becoming a dangerous law,” said Roger Dearing, Executive Director of the FHSAA. “We are pleased that the NFHS is standing with us to defend sportsmanship and fair competition for Florida high school athletes.”
The FHSAA and NFHS oppose the bills because they would inject political appointees into high school sports while destabilizing core values such as honesty and integrity, which form the cornerstone of high school athletics. The legislation would tilt the level playing field by allowing students to transfer to different schools to play different sports, while emasculating the FHSAA’s ability to enforce its rules against illegal actions such as recruiting. The result would be a high school athletics system ruled by coaches, parents and boosters who would go to any lengths to win a state championship.
“Our members around the nation are deeply troubled by the proposals being considered by the Florida legislature that would undermine the authority of the FHSAA and undercut the integrity of high school sports,” said Bob Gardner, Executive Director of the NFHS. “If this legislation passes, it will establish a terrible precedent that endangers the values we promote to high school athletes nationwide.
As originally filed, the bills would terminate the FHSAA as a governing organization by 2017. In the meantime, the organization’s investigative powers would be limited to its ability to obtain sworn statements. If the FHSAA wants to suspend a player or coach for violating its rules, it must first obtain a final order from the state Division of Administrative Hearings (DOAH) – an extensive process that could take months, or even years, to complete. The FHSAA Board of Directors would be expanded to include several political appointees, with the FHSAA Executive Director hired only through the approval of the appointed Commissioner of Education.
Both founded in 1920, the FHSAA and NFHS are dedicated to the mission of helping high school students succeed through interscholastic sports. The FHSAA has stood as a national trailblazer for state athletic associations, serving as a bellwether to let them know what is in store for high school sports across the nation.
One of the NFHS’ key functions is the establishment of consistent rules and standards for high school athletics, both of which hang in the balance in Florida because of HB 1279 and SB 1164. The FHSAA provides opportunities for high school students to compete under the same rules on an equal playing field through 32 different sports. It has served Florida for 93 years as a private, not-for-profit association and a leading voice for sportsmanship and fair play in high school athletics.
“This legislation would undermine our ability to do our job for the benefit of student-athletes,” said Dearing. “The FHSAA will keep working with lawmakers for the sake of young Floridians. They deserve better.”
To learn more about the FHSAA, visit www.fhsaa.org.