reidel_anthony_web.jpgTALLAHASSEE — A coalition of parents, coaches and school athletics officials says Florida prep sports programs would be plunged into chaos by proposals being considered by the Legislature.

Florida Parents for Fair Play and the Florida High School Athletic Association (FHSAA) also say Senate Bill 1704 and House Bill 1403 make it possible for ineligible athletes to play, and for the few coaches who engage in unscrupulous behavior to improperly recruit across school lines

Coalition members say SB 1704 and HB 1403 would weaken barriers to recruitment of high school athletes by competing schools, and allow potentially ineligible high school athletes to continue playing during an appeal, even though a determination of ineligibility already has  been made.

SB 1704 would create a new athletics sanctioning organization — eliminating, opponents say, the continuity that has been a cornerstone of high school athletics throughout the state.

 “These bills would benefit those with a predisposition to cheat — by tearing down barriers that exist to keep those few unscrupulous coaches from improperly recruiting impressionable young athletes,” said Roger Dearing, executive director of FHSAA.

“FHSAA is a national model,” said retired Tampa Bay Buccaneers All-Pro fullback Mike Alstott, a volunteer coach at FHSAA member St. Petersburg Catholic. “Public and private high schools throughout the state look to it for guidance and rely on it to make sure everybody plays by the same rules,” said Alstott. “Coaches and parents across Florida and the nation recognize the integrity that is a hallmark of Florida high school sports. FHSAA is the organization that we trust, and it’s the one Florida lawmakers should trust.”

Said former University of Florida and NFL standout Reidel Anthony, who played under FHSAA auspices while attending Glades Central High School, where he now is a coach: “It’s unnecessary and disappointing that some who don’t want to play by the rules wish to set up their own rules, their own organization.”

The boards of directors of the Florida Association of Academic Nonpublic Schools, representing 1,300 private schools and their 300,000 students, and the Florida Council of Independent Schools, with 153 schools and 72,000 students, both have voted unanimously to oppose the legislation.


Photo: Reidel Anthony