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Tue. April 9, 2013 | Matt Baker | Email

A bill critical of the FHSAA is a step closer to becoming law.

HB 1279 passed through the Florida House’s education committee Tuesday. Its next stop would likely be the House floor.

The bill – written by Lake County Republican Rep. Larry Metz – would regulate the Florida High School Athletic Association’s investigative powers, overhaul its structure and restrict its eligibility powers. It cruised through its final scheduled committee meeting, with vice chairwoman Elizabeth W. Porter saying the legislature needs to “reel them in.”

“They really don’t have any oversight…” said Porter, R-Lake City. “It’s unbounded power.”

The proposal remains a work in progress. A subcommittee changed it more last week by putting an expiration date – July 1, 2017 – to the FHSAA’s status as the state’s designated governing body of high school sports, unless it’s renewed.

But the bill’s most controversial steps remain the same: the expulsion of the current board of directors, a 90-day limit to investigations and eligibility rulings going to a third-party judge, not the FHSAA or its board of directors. Education committee members and members of the public questioned whether the FHSAA’s current system allows student-athletes to have due process.

“It’s a guilty until proven innocent (system),” said committee member Travis Hutson, a Palm Coast Republican.

In addressing the committee, Metz explained the follow-the-coach rule, which would be abolished under his bill. Currently, athletes are ineligible if they leave their school to go to another athletic department with a coach they know from club or AAU teams, regardless of why the student transferred.

“That shouldn’t presume they’re ineligible due to recruitment,” Metz said, adding that the FHSAA would keep the authority to police recruiting.

The FHSAA has strongly opposed at least some parts of the bill. It arranged a teleconference last month with former Bucs Mike Alstott and Reidel Anthony to criticize the proposal as inviting high school free agency.

“Our door is open to them,” Metz said.

The bill’s other tweaks also add two home school representatives and one other appointee to the FHSAA’s current 16-member board of directors and freeze the association’s current revenue sources. It also designates 55 percent of the FHSAA’s expenses to fund operations like the state playoffs, 30 percent to scholarships and 15 percent to student safety.  

To become law, the bill would have to be approved by the House and Senate and signed by the governor.

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