Kentucky Wildcat in Bondage: Is the KHSAA listening to anyone?

Continuing our little crusade here at A Sea of Blue to free Dakotah Euton from the depredations of the KHSAA, I went over to the Lexington Herald-Leader to continue my research into this situation.

First of all, I want to point out that the LHL has done a fine job of exposing the problems of the KHSAA to the public eye.  It is remarkable how little we know about organizations like this who can have a dramatic impact not just on Kentucky players, but on everyday people who have children in Kentucky's public and private schools.  The LHL has finally shed some light on this rather opaque organization, and what they have found has not been that pretty.  The more rocks I turn over, the more bugs and creepy-crawlers I find.

Kentucky fans were very hard on the LHL for defending Jerry Tipton.  I have already spoken my piece on that and I don't care to reopen that debate, but I do want to point out to the LHL's detractors that they are doing yeoman's work on the KHSAA, and in the process not only helping expose some of the problems that threaten Dakotah Euton's high school and even college career, but that of future Wildcats.  So for those who have been and still are angry with the Herald-Leader, here is a reason to be less so.

Moving on to the subject at hand, the LHL has on their website within their special report on the KHSAA a link to this document (Adobe Acrobat Reader required), which was sent to the Kentucky Board of Education from the Kentucky Legislative Research Commission specifically objecting to Bylaw 6, section 1.  The relevant part states the following:

Any student entering grade (7) in 2009-2010 or later who has participated in a varsity contest in any sport representing a member school while being enrolled in grades seven (7) or eight (8) and who then enrolls at a different member school grade nine or above) shall be ineligible for interscholastic athletics at any level in any sport for the fi rst year of enrollment.

This provision seems to be aimed at curbing the recruitment of athletes.  Our members had the same reaction to this provision as to similar KHSAA provisions reviewed by the subcommittee last year.  That feeling is that it is bad public policy to try to prohibit or curb the recruitment of student-athletes by punishing the student-athlete, who has done nothing wrong.  We would urge the KHSAA and KBE [Kentucky Board of Education] to find some other way to control the illegal recruitment of student-athletes.  We believe that the members of the ARRS [Administrative Regulation Review Subcommittee] and the General Assembly would be supportive of ways to control recruiting by punishing the perpetrator of that violation.  That person could be a coach, a principal, an athletic director, or a superintendent.  The punishment could range from a fine to suspension or revocation of a teaching credential.  The punishment could even be extended to that person's supervisor in order to ensure compliance. [emphasis mine]

What I find interesting is that the whole of Bylaw 6, not just the so-called "play up" provision, punishes the athlete and not the perpetrator of the recruiting effort.  So if the LRC is to be taken seriously in it's comments, not only the "play up" provision needs to be examined, but the entire bylaw.

But no.  The Staff Note to the Kentucky Board of Education signed by DeVries contained this:

However, during the review by the LRC Administrative Regulation Review Subcommittee, a formal objection was raised to proposed changes in the KHSAA bylaws. By letter dated April 15, 2008, the co-chairs of the Administrative Regulation Review Subcommittee (ARRS), Senator Richard Roeding and Representative Robert Damron, voiced concern over two provisions within the proposed bylaws as follows:  (1) An objection was raised involving an inclusive statement in KHSAA Bylaw 6 that stated "The KHSAA shall not recognize as grounds for a waiver of the period of ineligibility an argument that the educational needs of the transferring students would be better served through a transfer." While acknowledging that this stipulation may help in the prevention of recruitment of athletes, the legislators indicated that as a policy statement it appears to be in contradiction with the academic mission of the schools; (2) In addition, Senator Roeding and Representative Weston expressed written objection to the proposed amendment in Bylaw 6 that would have penalized student(s) who had participated at the varsity level while enrolled below grade nine, and then changed to a different school without qualifying for a bylaw 6 exception.

Based on these written objections, the KHSAA Board of Control at its April 2008 meeting directed the KHSAA Commissioner to request that the Kentucky Board of Education delete the provisions referenced above and resubmit the remaining bylaws of the  Association to the ARRS for approval. The revised bylaws (included as attachment "B") are presented showing strikethroughs of the two provisions objected to by AARS. The KHSAA Board of Control noted it was reiterated in the April 15, 2008, letter from Senator Roeding and Representative Damron, that the ARRS would strongly support future amendments to KHSAA rules which would appropriately penalize adult rule breakers, without interfering with basic education options of the parents. [emphasis mine]

So it is apparent that DeVries wants to do the minimum required to meet the LRC's letter.  Why not go ahead and submit revised rules to the ARRS for approval?  Who knows?  She deleted the provisions easily enough, so why is this so difficult?

These and other changes that have been lauded by DeVries as evidence of the KHSAA improving itself are really perfunctory at best, tantamount to removing obviously illegal language and "streamlining" the appeals process into an even less accountable procedure.  There are other examples of this in the KBE meeting minutes as well as in correspondence from the KHSAA, but this is enough for one post to make my point.

In addition, the KBE itself is standing in the way of some needed changes to the judicial procedure, citing "not invented here" and "other people do it, so it must be OK" type arguments as their reasoning for allowing the KHSAA to continue to punish schools even after judicial restraining orders declare athletes eligible.  Of course, the KHSAA doesn't want to change that.  The KBE could require it, but failed to pass the motion using the faux arguments above.

Changes are required, and it's time for the legislature to do more than pick nits.  All the bylaws need to be reviewed and changed, and the KHSAA and possibly even the KBE needs more oversight.  Thankfully, at least one Kentucky newspaper is on the case, and hopefully the Courier-Journal will follow before this happens to one of Louisville's recruits and forces them to get out their axe-grinder.

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