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Thursday, May 24, 2018
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NFHS backs FHSAA’s fight against bills in Florida Legislature

The National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS), the leading governing body for the development of high school sports in the United States, joined the Florida High School Athletic Association’s battle Thursday to thwart the passing of harmful legislation that would weaken the Florida association’s authority and funding. The bill sponsored by Sen. Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland, and the House version of Stargel’s bill sponsored by State Rep. Larry Metz, R-Yalaha, would disband the FHSAA Board of Directors; cut the association’s revenue by 50 percent; and force the FHSAA to bear the burden of investigation expenses while allowing a judge to rule on the investigation’s outcome. The bills aim to create due process for student-athletes. A new provision in the House bill would terminate the FHSAA’s designation as the governing nonprofit organization of athletics in Florida by July 1, 2017. If approved by the governor, the laws will go into effect July 1.
The bills would also be added to House Bill 1403, which after being signed into law last year by Gov. Rick Scott gave public school districts and private schools — not the FHSAA — the power to decide whether a student-athlete is eligible upon enrollment or transfer to a school. The FHSAA and NFHS argue the bills would create an environment of “open recruiting” and limit the FHSAA’s ability to police such offenses. “We have not seen anything with the likes of what the Florida Legislature has proposed,” said Bob Gardner, NFHS executive director. The FHSAA’s course of action, according to executive director Roger Dearing, is to “convince the legislature” that its proposed bills are harmful to state athletics. “If this passes, the FHSAA board would have to look at all its resources in order to do the right thing,” Dearing said. The Hillsborough County School District will seemingly be unaffected if the bills are passed into law. Last September, the school district implemented its participation policy, which states any student-athlete who transfers to a high school other than a designated zoned school will be barred from athletics for one calendar year unless cleared on appeal. The proposed bills would not supersede Hillsborough’s policy.

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