Posted: 4:18 pm Friday, January 20th, 2012

New state legislation may alter relationship between FHSAA, private schools 

By James @littlenomads

By Jeff Greer and Matt Porter

The Orlando Sentinel reports today that twin bills have been introduced in the Florida House of Representatives and Senate that would drastically change the relationship between the FHSAA and the Sunshine Independent Athletic Association, a young organization formed to support select private and charter schools in Florida.

The bills would force the FHSAA to recognize the SIAA as a governing body for private and charter schools in Florida. It would force the FHSAA to recognize games between the two organizations. The FHSAA last year rejected a request from the SIAA to recognize interleague play.

The FHSAA, based in Gainesville, has been the governing body for high schools in Florida since 1920 and includes more than 650 member schools. The Jacksonville-based SIAA was created in 2009 for private schools. Some of the SIAA’s 30 schools clashed with the FHSAA before dropping out.

There are currently no SIAA member schools in Palm Beach County or on the Treasure Coast.

The Senate bill, the report says, would require a title tournament between the seasonal SIAA champs and the FHSAA champs in each sport. The House version also has a clause that would allow private-school students to play on public-school sports teams.

There does, however, seem to be confusion among coaches, athletic directors and administrators, who are uncertain if the bills would mandate such changes, or simply encourage them.

The instant reaction from area coaches and athletic directors was decidedly against the Senate bill, introduced Tuesday.

“I don’t like it, and all the coaches and ADs I’ve been talking to and emailing with don’t like it either,” said Matt Dillon, Pope John Paul II’s football coach and athletic director. “We’re members of the FHSAA, and we will continue to abide by their rules.”

In the plainest language possible, here are the new pieces of language the Senate bill would attempt to write into the state laws governing high school athletics:

– If your private, charter or virtual school does not offer a sport, you can play at your local public high school. If you live in Palm Beach Gardens’ zone, and you attend a virtual school, you may play football at Gardens.

– No “sit until the fall” after transferring. Students going from public to private in January would be allowed to participate in spring football.

– Restrictions on state investigations: Investigators must undergo a background check and carry a photo ID card. Interviews may only be conducted Monday-Friday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Locker, residence or other private searches with written permission only. Parents or legal guardians present at interview. Legal counsel present, but may not participate/object, can advise client not to answer.

– Coaches employed by high schools may coach or volunteer for community, church or other outside youth sports organizations.

– SIAA wants its recognition: FHSAA may not discourage games between FHSAA-SIAA schools. The two associations are to conduct joint championships for each sport. SIAA would be recognized as official governing body for private schools. Note: private schools would not be forced to join SIAA.

– Speeding up appeals: Appeals to be held in appellant’s county, not FHSAA’s home base in Gainesville. Appeals process to be expedited, with aim to be completed by end of applicable sports season. If a football player is suspended, every effort would be to made to get him back to action quickly.