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Opponents: Bill would turn high-school athletes into free agents

When the Florida High School Athletic Association disqualified the top-ranked Krop High School boys’ basketball team from the state playoffs in 2011, it had uncovered that several players, including a Bahamian-born guard, were ineligible to play for the northeast Miami-Dade high school team.

The scandal led to the ouster of legendary coach Shakey Rodriguez, the demotion of the school’s principal, a three-year probation for the basketball program and fines that topped $20,000.

This year, a state lawmaker wants to scale back the FHSAA’s power by easing some of the restrictions on transferring schools and weakening the association’s ability to conduct investigations. Roger Dearing, the FHSAA’s executive director, argues that the legislation would turn local high schools into pro sports franchises by unleashing “recruiting-frenzied sports giants” as top schools bid for top athletes.

Not so, says state Rep. Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland, in support of her bill. It would “help combat [the FHSAA’s] predisposition to consider students as guilty until proven innocent, and would establish true due process and rights for student athletes, which the current system of conducting investigations clearly lacks,” she says.

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