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A series of meetings is addressing the problem of high schools recruiting for their athletic programs.
By DAVID MURPHY
Published August 27, 2006
Kevin Bryant, one of the most highly recruited lineman in the state, transferred from one Miami public school this summer and will play his senior season at a different public school.
Dominique English, a point guard who helped lead Gulf to the Class 4A regional final last year, said in August that she was transferring to a private school in Orlando.
Bryant openly admitted that his decision was based on athletics. English said hers was a result of academics.
Under the controversial new transfer rules adopted by the Florida High School Athletic Association in January, neither athlete would be eligible to play varsity sports this year.
But those rules are on hold as a task force established by the state legislature studies the problem of high school recruiting in the state of Florida. The committee, which meets for the second time Tuesday at Berkeley Prep, is charged with examining the recruitment of student athletes and developing recommendations on how to best deal with the issue.
The task, as illustrated by the aforementioned scenarios, is a difficult one. Most of the 13-member committee - six proponents of the FHSAA's new rules, six opponents, and chairman Dudley Goodlette (R-Naples) - agrees that action needs to be taken to help curb the problem of recruiting.
But many private schools feel the college-style rules the FHSAA wants to implement, which would force a student athlete who transfers any time after his freshman year to sit out a season of varsity sports, would unfairly hamper their ability to attract students.
Opponents also believe the new rules violates state law regarding school choice.
"We are looking to make recommendations that preserve parental right to school choice while at same time protecting integrity of Florida's high school athletic programs," Goodlette said. "That is the balance we must strike."
The first meeting, Goodlette said, was more of an orientation session. FHSAA commissioner John Stewart made a presentation, and committee members held a general discussion about recruiting. Tuesdays meeting will feature input from the public. Anybody is free to speak at the meeting, which begins at 1 p.m.
The third meeting will be held Oct. 24, after which the task force will submit its recommendations to the Governor, the President of the Senate, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives.
John Trainer, the headmaster of the Bolles School in Jacksonville, is one member of the committee who is opposed to the FHSAA's rules as they currently read, but says they can be fixed with a little "tweaking."
"I am convinced something will come out of it," Trainer said. "And I hope that it eliminates athletic recruiting."
Task force member Bob Henriquez, a state representative who is also the head football coach at Tampa Catholic, said that his goal is to "allow parents ultimately to make the decisions for what's best for their children."
Theoretically, the committee will find some middle ground and draft a set of recommendations that is unanimously approved. But with six an equal number of proponents and opponents of the FHSAA rules participating, the scenario exists in which Goodlette would become, in his words, "the tiebreaker."
The rules, passed in January, were supposed to take effect July 1. But the legislature passed a bill in May that essentially put their fate in the hands of the task force.
"So far we think the task force is doing what it is supposed to be doing," FHSAA Director of Communications Jack Watford said.
Your input sought
The 2006 Florida Legislature created the Student Athlete Recruiting Task Force to review issues regarding recruitment of secondary school athletes and make recommendations to the Legislature and the governor. The task force is working through a deliberative process to review pertinent information, take public input and develop recommendations that will preserve parents' rights for school choice while at the same time protect the integrity of Florida's interscholastic athletic programs. The task force members will consider many issues in their deliberations and are seeking public input at their meeting Aug. 29 from 1-4 p.m. at Berkeley Preparatory School, 4811 Kelley Road in Tampa.
The task force seeks information from the public on the following topics as they relate to secondary school athletes: the definition of recruiting; current and proposed procedures governing recruiting; documented past recruiting practices, such as tuition scholarships, foreign athletes, solicitation by school employees or boosters, and other practices; the impact of recruiting rules on parental school choice; the relationship between student-athlete transfers and recruiting; measures for preventing improper student-athlete recruiting and penalties for violations; and policies to allow students attending private schools that do not have athletic programs to participate in the athletic programs at their assigned public school.
Those unable to attend the meeting but wishing to provide members with input can visit www.oppaga .state.fl.us/sataskforce/index.htm and click on public input or mail information to the task force at OPPAGA, 111 W. Madison St., Tallahassee FL 32399. Task force members include state Rep. L. Dudley Goodlette, chairman; Skardon Bliss; Jeff Brown; state Rep. Bob Henriquez; William Husfelt; Doug Jennett; Larry Keough; Vernon Korhn; Demetrio Perez; Thomas Rowland; John Trainer; Kenneth Wackes; and William Weatherford.