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Florida High School Athletic Association needs change, lawmakers say

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – For the third year in a row, the association that regulates high school athletics is under fire from state lawmakers, but they may be using a smaller hammer this time around.

The new legislation is a far cry from the extensive changes passed by the House last year, and given last year's failure, it may have a chance of becoming law.

A year ago, the Florida High School Athletic Association faced extinction. Lawmakers were angry with the FHSAA over player ineligibility policies, ticket pricing and restrictive recruiting rules.

"I believe we are all on the same team," FHSAA lobbyist Juhan Mixon said. "We're all trying to go to the same place."

The association was accused of being slow to react to changing times.

"And I'm going to say what a lot of athletic directors and coaches are afraid to say, because they don't want to get on FHSAA's bad side: There is need for change," said Stuart Weiss, with the Sunshine State Athletic Conference.

The House approved sweeping legislation requiring the commissioner of education to name a new sports governing body by 2017.

The legislation never got a hearing in the Senate.

One of the complaints about the FHSAA is that it requires schools to compete in every sport, so a school that could field a basketball team was also required to be in football. That could soon be changing.

Fast forward a year. Legislation has been filed that would allow schools to field teams in some, but not every, sport. Rep. Ross Spano is the sponsor.

"Unfortunately, the way the FHSAA rules are written right now, if you are going to be a member of the FHSAA, you have to compete on the same level in every sport," Spano said. "That's just not practical. I don't think anybody could make an argument that's practical."

But practicality is something that the entire legislature will decide early next year.