Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

FSHAA: 'Free Agents' in Schools; Group Says That Would Happen If Bills Pass Legislature

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

FSHAA: 'Free Agents' in Schools; Group Says That Would Happen If Bills Pass Legislature

Article excerpt

Byline: Justin Barney

A pair of bills in the state Legislature have the potential to turn high school athletics into a recruiting free-for-all, the Florida High School Athletic Association said Tuesday.

FHSAA Executive Director Roger Dearing said that the bills essentially create "free agency" in high school and an "unlevel" playing field for schools who try to do the right thing.

"The changes these bills propose would undermine sportsmanship and shatter community spirit by allowing some high schools to become recruiting frenzied sports giants," Dearing said.

Dearing, who was joined on the teleconference by former NFL players Reidel Anthony and Mike Alstott, now both high school football coaches in the state, said Senate Bill 1164 and House Bill 1279 threaten to turn high school athletics into the equivalency of free agency. They strip the FHSAA of many of its enforcement powers and put the power in the hands of school districts around the state when dealing with transfer students.

The bills would allow students to transfer and become eligible to play immediately as long as they meet academic criteria and have their move approved by the receiving school district. Dearing said that a student under the proposals could essentially play football in the fall at one school, basketball in the winter at another and baseball in spring at a third.

"This opens up the door for [recruiting and transfers] to happen at a greater rate," Dearing said.

They come less than a year after Gov. Rick Scott signed HB 1403 into law. That loosened the FHSAA's reins on eligibility rulings and giving more say to each of the 67 school districts in the state, a move that critics both locally and statewide lambasted for creating a similar free agency scenario.

The current bills go well beyond last year's, taking aim at the FHSAA's revenue streams, its board members and the ability to enforce eligibility rulings. With so many districts around the state, however, Dearing said proper enforcement and oversight would be difficult.

Eligibility issues that do surface would be handled through the FHSAA, although would ultimately be ruled on by the Division of Administrative Hearings. …

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