Pauls Valley, OK, Pauls Valley Democrat

May 16, 2013

State lawmakers on verge of taking on high school sports association

By Michael Kinney
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — An interim legislative study is being proposed regarding recent actions by the Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association (OSSAA), a state legislator who asked to remain anonymous said this week.

The study could begin as early as this summer.

“We had a rash of complaints at the legislature from students, coaches, superintendents, principals on the actions of the OSSAA and what they are doing,” the legislator said. “The OSSAA is absolutely, unequivocally out of control. The amount of money they are taking from our schools is armed robbery.”

The legislator asked to remain anonymous until an official announcement is made, possibly as early as this week.

OSSAA Executive Director Ed Sheakley said he has been told of the interim study.

“We have heard that could be a possibility,” Sheakley said. “We do not have any specifics on it.”

The OSSAA is the ruling body that oversees all athletic competitions and activities for public schools in the state of Oklahoma, which make up its members. It makes the rules, investigates when those rules are possibly broken and assesses the punishments as it sees fit.

The OSSAA mission statement states it “will serve member schools by providing leadership in the development, supervision and conduct of co-curricular activities, which enrich the educational experiences of high school students. It will provide for equitable participation opportunities and positive recognition to students as a whole, while working cooperatively with schools to enhance the achievement of desired educational goals.”

The OSSAA also sets up the postseason tournaments for all athletic competitions, which it receives a sizable portion of the money taken in.

“They are not taking money directly from the state,” the source said. “They are ripping off the schools. They have gotten too much power and they are controlling our kids’ lives,” the lawmaker said. “And they think we have no power. We are looking to get subpoena powers to see if we can make some changes.”

A pair of public announcements of the interim study is expected in the coming days. One will explain why the state legislature has decided to take on the OSSAA. The second will be a more official announcement that will include the date of the study.

Over the years the OSSAA has had its share of critics on the way it’s handled several of its more high-profile cases. The source gave recent examples, including the Wright City baseball team, which had to go to court to block a ruling by the OSSAA that kept it out of the Class A state baseball tournament.

“I did have a meeting the other day with the Speaker Pro Tem from the house and he did express a concern,” Sheakley said. “It was brought to him by some other legislative members. And we are looking into his concerns. Our primary interest are our students who participate in our co-curricular activities and create a level playing field for all students.”