Legislators vowed Thursday to propose legislation that will put government oversight over the eligibility and financial sides of the Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association.
Two days after a Supreme Court ruling said it will give tougher judicial scrutiny for its actions, the House of Representatives finished their three-day legislative hearing of the state's high school sports governing body.
Rep. Gus Blackwell, R-Laverne, said he plans to propose legislation to make the eligibility rules easier to understand and to oversee the finances.
“I don't think we need to pay $2-5 million a year for an organization that basically draws up a bracket and determines who is eligible,” he said. “They have 31 other activities that they take care of besides sports, and there's never a problem in there. This seems to be the one that they have all sorts of problems with.”
OSSAA executive director Ed Sheakley is open to change within the organization, but wants the change to come from the vote of the members.
Change, though, appears be coming from the outside.
On Thursday, Sheakley spent a little more than two hours defending the organization.
Much of the hearing's focus centered on the financial transparency within the OSSAA.
And it also centered on Tuesday's ruling from the Oklahoma Supreme Court that called the OSSAA's actions against the Sequoyah-Tahlequah football team arbitrary and capricious.
Last year, the OSSAA forced Sequoyah-Tahlequah to forfeit nine games and miss the playoffs after the school was ruled to improperly pay for students to attend camps. The court found the association repeatedly acted in an arbitrary and capricious manner in interpreting and enforcing its rules.
Rep. Richard Morrissette, D-Oklahoma City, even said he took that as the Supreme Court telling the committee to take action regarding the OSSAA.
Sheakley provided a large notebook containing information for the committee members about cases brought up during the three-day study. Many of the cases blamed the organization for unfairness in enforcing its rules and questioning how revenue from football is distributed, which has caused many schools to pay out of pocket for playoff expenses.
He later said some of the accusations will be addressed within the membership.
“We're going to go to our membership in October and talk about some of the things that they talk about, and if there's changes that need to be done, then lets change it from inside,” Sheakley said. “We hope that we can do that.”
Sheakley said during the hearing that he believes the OSSAA is a private organization, but should be held accountable by the legislature.
He just wants the opportunity to fix the issue first. But Rep. Bobby Cleveland, R-Slaughterville, doesn't see that happening.
“I guess I have to look at the past,” he said. “(Sheakley) hasn't been fair in the past, so why would I want to trust him to be fair in the future?”