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With OSSAA, lawmakers need to look for solutions, not punishment

by The Oklahoman Editorial Board Published: October 14, 2013

THE Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association has drawn the ire of some members of the Legislature and even the Oklahoma Supreme Court. How the OSSAA has conducted its business overseeing extracurricular events ranging from track and field to football to debate hasn't been good enough, they say, and must improve.

So change is coming, like it or not.

Freshman state Rep. Bobby Cleveland, R-Slaughterville, is leading the charge. Cleveland said he heard from several constituents who said they had been done wrong by the OSSAA, and that he subsquently found “there is no oversight” of the organization. “The buck stops with them,” he said in September. “If you don't like their decision, you can go to district court.”

Cleveland led public hearings about the OSSAA that featured parents, coaches and others who had very little good to say about the organization. Cleveland himself is obviously no fan of OSSAA Executive Director Ed Sheakley, who spent two hours before Cleveland's committee defending and explaining his work.

After the state Supreme Court issued an opinion critical of the OSSAA's handling of one case, and said it would be paying closer attention to OSSAA business, Cleveland said the Legislature would recommend ways for the OSSAA to change. But he wasn't optimistic change would occur “because the director is so egotistical, he thinks he's above everybody ...”

Sheakley told lawmakers he wants the chance to fix what needs fixing before the Legislature acts. Cleveland's response: “He hasn't been fair in the past, so why would I trust him to be fair in the future?”

Lawmakers have expressed concerns about how the OSSAA spends its money — the group's budget is about $5 million annually — and its transparency. The biggest gripes, though, relate to rulings by the organization that have affected eligibility of athletes or teams.

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by The Oklahoman Editorial Board
The Oklahoman Editorial Board consists of Gary Pierson, President and CEO of The Oklahoma Publishing Company; Christopher P. Reen, president and publisher of The Oklahoman; Kelly Dyer Fry, editor and vice president of news; Christy Gaylord...
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