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FHSAA committee seeks public-private compromise

A Florida High School Activities Association committee formed to study the relationship between public and private schools came within one vote Friday of recommending a separate playoff system for the two types of schools.

The committee met in Lakeland, site of the girls state basketball finals, to determine what recommendations it would make to the FHSAA Board of Directors at a meeting next week in Tallahassee.

In a 4-3 vote, the committee voted down a motion to create a separate playoff system for all sports and all classifications. Voting against the motion: Lakeland Christian principal Derek Keenan, Bolles principal Harry deMontmollin, Miami Gulliver principal Marian Krutulis and Manatee principal Dr. Patricia Lucas, chairwoman of the committee.

Lucas, who casted the deciding vote, said she believed there were ways the inequities between the private schools could be solved without "throwing out the baby with the bath water."

But the possibility of a separate playoff system is not over. Baker County superintendent Tim Starling, who voted yes, said he would asked the board to consider the motion when Lucas presents the sub-committee recommendations next week. Levy County School Board member Buddy Vickers and Jay principal Thomas Rowland also voted in favor of the motion.

Starling said a recent FHSAA survey in which 63.8 percent of the principals believed there should be a separate system indicates that action needs to be taken. Of the 347 principals (74.8 percent) who responded to the survey, 213 said they favored a dual playoff system.

Private schools often have a competitive advantage because they are not limited to a particular school district. The private schools can attract players from public schools within their city, and occasionally draw athletes from outside the state and outside the United States.

But dissenting members argued that a "level playing field" could be created without making the private schools feel like "second-class citizens." Private school members said they would be willing to discuss several proposals including:

Geographic zones for private schools related to athletic participation;

Restrictions on the play of international athletes;

Limits on the number of financial aid packages private schools could offer;

Restrictions on the transfer of athletes.

In fact, the sub-committee will reccomend that the board modify the blue waiver rule for transfers. The recommendation would make athletes who transfer after the beginning of a particular season ineligible for that sport.

It also would make transfers with varsity experience in a particular sport ineligible for that sport for one calendar year after the date of the transfer. Hardship cases would be considered.

If the transfer rule was in effect this season, Northside Christian players Vickie Reeves and Rachel Bishop, who transferred from Clearwater Central Catholic this season, would have been ineligible. During the meeting, the CCC/Northside Christian athletes were mentioned as an example of why the waiver rule needed to be modified.