Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Dearing Overcame Tough Issues during Term

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Dearing Overcame Tough Issues during Term

Article excerpt

HIGH SCHOOLS FHSAA

SARASOTA -- A crippling recession, pressure from the legislature and an extra emphasis placed on the safety of student-athletes.

Roger Dearing has encountered his fair share of challenges during the eight years he has served as the executive director of the Florida High School Athletic Association, a post he assumed in 2008 after serving for three years as the superintendent for the School District of Manatee County.

Dearing announced his retirement Wednesday -- though he will stay in office until the FHSAA hires a successor -- capping a run that was anything but boring.

Beginning with The Great Recession of 2008 and including a transfer bill scheduled to go into effect July 1 that will forever alter student-athletics, Dearing's watch over the FHSAA occurred while prep sports underwent a seismic shift.

"Certainly, there were some challenges," Dearing told The Herald- Tribune on Thursday. "I wouldn't use the word 'tough.' They were issues for anybody that would have been sitting in this seat."

Dearing was elected the association's executive director during the summer of 2008 while the nation was in the midst of an historic economic dive. With the recession came the first controversial moment of Dearing's tenure -- the decision to cut back on the maximum number of games each team was allowed to play in each sport.

The move was made to help cut down on travel expenses. But when football was excluded from the cuts -- teams were still permitted to play their allotment of 10 regular-season games -- the association faced a potential lawsuit from a parents group claiming the FHSAA had violated Title IX, a federal law preventing gender discrimination. The association voted

to rescind the cuts that summer.

While that measure failed, Dearing did ease the burden on the association's 804 member schools by slashing membership dues and other fees. Dues are $25 for high schools and $10 for middle schools. According to the FHSAA, the amount of revenue paid into the association by its member schools has decreased by $1.1 million since Dearing took office.

Corporate revenues have also increased $1 million under Dearing, the FHSAA reports. "The financial stability here is better than it has ever been," he said. "We weaned ourselves off from relying on schools for our internal accounts. The membership rate is a flat fee of $25, so $25 a year from 800 schools is a very small percentage of our revenue."

Aside from corporate sponsors, Dearing also entered the FHSAA into media contracts. In 2013, the association was one of the first in the country to work with the NFHS Network, which broadcasts events digitally while charging a subscription. The FHSAA is also a partner with Bright House Sports Network, which televises championship games as well as select regular-season games throughout the year.

"There's a lot of things the FHSAA can certainly hang their hat on," said Jason Montgomery, the director of athletics for Manatee County. "They've done a lot of things to put more money back into the pockets of its membership. I've got no issues with the FHSAA over the last eight years."

Dearing also helped oversee the creation of the association's policy on concussion protocol and heat acclimatization, as well as the adaptive track and field and unified basketball programs. …

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