For weeks, the Florida High School Athletic Association has been incredibly vocal about its opposition to legislation that was making its way through Tallahassee and would have changed how the FHSAA operates.
One of the state association's biggest gripes? That Senate Bill 1164 would allow high school athletes to become virtual free agents, able to move from school to school during the same year to play sports. The legislation would have also impacted the makeup of the FHSAA's board of directors, its finances, and how the organization investigated ineligible athletes. House Bill 1279, a companion bill, did pass the House.
Coaches and athletic directors spoke up on behalf of the FHSAA on conference calls. The National Federation of State High School Associations threw its support behind the FHSAA. Locally, Damian Huttenhoff, Broward County's director of athletics and activities, warned the legislation, if passed, could "change the landscape" of high school sports in South Florida.
But last Friday, the legislative session ended without passing the legislation targeting the FHSAA. And the association couldn't be more relieved.
“It is gratifying that Florida’s 260,000 high school student-athletes will be spared some of the negative consequences of this legislation. We understand that many of the legislators who supported the proposal were doing what they thought was best for high school athletics, but it would have opened the door for a few adults and athletes to build powerhouses while those who respected the rules of fair play were left behind," FHSAA executive director Roger Dearing said in a statement.
“The FHSAA will continue safeguarding the integrity of our state’s high school athletics, as it has done for 93 years. The session-long discussion about the FHSAA has raised some genuine concerns, and we welcome the opportunity to collaborate with students, parents, coaches, administrators and legislators to ensure that all high school athletes are able to continue competing on a level playing field. Florida’s high school athletes deserve the opportunity to play under a statewide uniform set of fair rules, and the FHSAA is proud to remain the keeper of that sacred tradition for our state.”
While the Senate bill's expiration means the FHSAA will continue operating as usual, don't be surprised if legislators take another crack at the association next spring. This marks the second consecutive year that lawmakers in Tallahassee have worked on legislation regarding high school sports and the FHSAA.
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