With many watching, OSSAA needs to look for ways to improve

The Oklahoman Editorial Published: October 3, 2013
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LIKE a referee in a basketball game, the Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association is catching grief from all sides. Not many are very happy with the OSSAA right now.

As the organization that oversees high school sports (and other extracurricular activities) in Oklahoma, the OSSAA wields considerable clout. It deals with everything from athlete eligibility, to the makeup of districts, to the sites and starting times of playoff games. And to date it has done so, according to the Oklahoma Supreme Court, without enough scrutiny. That's about to change.

Justice Yvonne Kauger, writing for the majority in a 7-2 opinion this week in a case involving Sequoyah High School in Tahlequah, said the court had allowed the OSSAA, “in the guise of a voluntary association, to govern the affairs of secondary school athletics in Oklahoma with near impunity. No more.”

The OSSAA considers itself a voluntary organization, but Kauger said its role “goes above and beyond that of a traditional volunteer association,” and thus, “closer scrutiny when reviewing its actions is a necessity.”

The Sequoyah case stemmed from the football team being kept out of the playoffs last year after the OSSAA said the school improperly had paid for players to attend football camps. It was only the latest OSSAA case to wind up before the state's high court.

This spring, the court was asked to decide a case involving a baseball team that had been removed from the Class A state tournament because the OSSAA said it played too many games during the season. The tournament was held up for more than a month as the case was adjudicated (the team wound up being allowed to play).

In 2005, Shawnee's quarterback kicked an opponent during a Class 5A playoff game, which merited his ejection and subsequent two-game suspension. The school appealed in a process that lasted about three weeks and ended up before the high court, which ruled in favor of the OSSAA.

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