Fla. high school sports board under fire

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - The Florida High School Athletic Association would lose much of its power to govern the regulation and movement of high school athletes in Florida under legislation that has yet to get a negative vote.

The changes are coming after several high-profile rulings against student-athletes.

Under pending legislation, students could play where they want and when they want if they can make the team. State Sen. Kelly Stargel, R-Lakeland, says her bill eliminates what has been called the "follow the coach" rule.

"The FHSAA has continued to buck against what we're saying in the world of Legislature," Stargel said. "We don't want you to look at the movement of kids as bona fide evidence of recruiting."

One highly publicized case found that parents of three athletes in Stargel's hometown falsified records so their kids could play at another school.

Before becoming a principle at one Tallahassee high school, Billy Epting coached basketball for six years. He wants kids who move legitimately to be able to play, but he says the legislation could create problems.

"I think it has a potential to open up opportunity for increased recruiting of athletes by coaches, but also the opportunity for parents and athletes to begin coach shopping themselves," Epting said.

Right now parents and students who don't like the ruling from FHSAA can appeal, but it's to a committee within the association. This legislation would change that.

Attorney John Moyle is pushing the change. He wants administrative law judges to make the final decisions.

"They act as the judge and a jury, the investigator. They got everything in house," Moyle said.

Lawmakers would also force FHSAA to create more scholarships, limit when it can investigate, and add more governmental appointees to the board.

Lobbyists said the changes amount to "death by a thousand paper cuts for the association."

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