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FHSAA acts to curb recruiting violators

In an effort to deter recruiting, the Florida High School Activities Association (FHSAA) voted Monday to hire a special investigator to handle such cases.

If a school is found in violation of the illegal activity, it will be fined up to $2,500 and the athletic program will face probation or suspension _ akin to the NCAA's "death penalty."

If a school is found innocent, then the FHSAA would be responsible for paying the investigator. Commissioner Ronald Davis said his executive board will determine the specifics of the policy in the next few months.

According to Davis, this investigator will be either a "retired FBI agent, IRS agent or NCAA investigator" who will act on his recommendation.

Also Monday, the FHSAA voted unanimously to change from a four- to five-tier classification system for sports other than football, which has used a five-tier system since 1985.

Effective in the 1993-94 year, schools with a three-grade enrollment of 1,341 and more will play all sports in 5A.

Here's how the remaining classes will be divided:

Class 4A (80 schools) _ 958 to 1,340 students.

Class 3A (81 schools) _ 440 to 957 students.

Class 2A (60 schools) _ 208 to 439 students.

Class 1A (40-45 schools) _ fewer than 208 students.

The FHSAA originally established the five-tier system in 1985 to protect smaller schools' football programs, therefore preventing mismatches.

It appears at least seven area high schools will be affected (See chart).

The punched-up policy against recruiting was a welcome change, officials said.

"This is the most critical thing we face," said Don Sifra of Hallandale High School. "In my area, it's (recruiting) flaunted. People say, "What's the worst thing that can happen to me, pay $2,500 for a point guard? I'll take the risk.' Money won't be a deterrent, but probation will."

The directors expressed the conviction that a separate investigator would finally provide the FHSAA with the "teeth" the policy had been missing.

Before, Davis said, neither he nor the individual principals had the time or resources to conduct such thorough investigations.

"There's not a principal in the state who would not be real positive about this," said Wayne Williamson, athletic director for Hillsborough County.

According to Charles Holland, principal of Hillsborough High, schools will now need to submit substantial evidence to warrant an investigator.

"This should cut down on a lot of unnecessary accusations," he said.

Dropping down

Pinellas Park to 4A

Clearwater to 4A

Dixie Hollins to 4A

Armwood to 4A

Osceola to 3A

Moving up

East Bay to 5A

River Ridge to 3A

SP Catholic to 2A