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Oklahoma legislators want oversight on high school activities association

by Nolan Clay Published: January 27, 2014

Fed up with the association that oversees high school athletics in Oklahoma, three state legislators announced plans Monday to force changes there but not to take it over.

“We don't like how they treat our kids. We think our kids ... our student-athletes deserve a lot better,” Rep. Bobby Cleveland said of the Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association.

The OSSAA considers itself a private voluntary association. It oversees extracurricular activities for nearly every public school in Oklahoma for grades seven through 12. It makes decisions on the makeup of athletic districts, playoffs and student transfers and eligibility.

Last fall, coaches and parents complained during legislative hearings about the association's decisions. Also, the Oklahoma Supreme Court slammed it for arbitrary and capricious actions against a football team.

Key proposal

During a news conference Monday, Cleveland, R-Slaughterville; Rep. Gus Blackwell, R-Laverne; and Rep. Jason Murphey, R-Guthrie; revealed possible legislative fixes.

The key proposal involves tighter legislative oversight.

Specifically, that key proposal would give the Legislature the power to reject association's rules, such as how football playoff money is split.

“We don't want to make it a direct state agency with a whole new level of government ... but we do think administrative oversight ... would be some way to allow legislators to keep an eye on what goes on without having heavy-handed pressure,” Blackwell said.

“If superintendents came and said, ‘We're not getting a fair shake. They passed this rule. It really hurts us. Could you look at it?' We could look at it, disapprove and say, ‘Go back and try again,'” Blackwell said.

Another bill revamps how eligibility rulings are made.

Currently, the OSSAA's board considers a student's appeal if OSSAA administrators find the student is ineligible to participate in sporting events. A student can go to court if the board rejects the appeal.

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by Nolan Clay
Sr. Reporter
Nolan Clay was born in Oklahoma and has worked as a reporter for The Oklahoman since 1985. He covered the Oklahoma City bombing trials and witnessed bomber Tim McVeigh's execution. His investigative reports have brought down public officials,...
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