By Ed Sheakley
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — One of our state legislators has been using The Norman Transcript as a platform to launch a series of complaints about the Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association (“OSSAA”). As Executive Director of OSSAA, I need to set the record straight on these accusations.
OSSAA does not operate in secret, without any oversight. OSSAA’s Constitution and Rules are published, and can be viewed on our public website, at ossaa.com. The meetings of OSSAA’s governing Board of Directors are open to the public, and the agendas for those meetings are posted in advance on that website. The 14 members of the Board are elected from across the state, and represent the full range of different-sized schools. OSSAA’s books and financial records are open for review and are independently audited each year, and our financial operations are summarized in a published bulletin each fall, and distributed to the membership and media outlets.
Our 481 member schools each have a voice in OSSAA’s operations. Each fall, OSSAA conducts area meetings with its member schools across the state, to talk about their proposals and any concerns they have about OSSAA rules and how those rules are being interpreted, which are all reported to OSSAA’s Board of Directors. This past school year OSSAA also completed a formal review of OSSAA rules, which OSSAA’s Constitution mandates be conducted at least every five years. Based on the recommendations from our review committee as well as our area meetings, a number of changes were adopted. In addition, in each activity, we have advisory committees that annually review the rules specific to each activity, and propose changes or updates to those rules.
Our rules are aimed at insuring that all students at our member schools, not just the few who are the most talented, have equitable opportunities to participate in our activities. We also seek to avoid an overemphasis on competitive athletics, which could distract from the other educational objectives of our member schools or which could discourage broader student participation. OSSAA nevertheless receives over 1,000 requests per year for rule waivers and regrettably, on occasion, some schools are accused of violating the rules in ways that impact the athletic eligibility of students. We try to resolve those situations quickly, to avoid or minimize any interference with our activities, and we also try to make our decisions based on facts, and not rumors. Fairly enforcing the rules chosen by our member schools, however, means that some students and their families will be disappointed at times. If a member school or a student’s family is dissatisfied with the staff determination, then that determination can be appealed to OSSAA’s Board of Directors, in a hearing that also is open to the public.
Contrary to the accusations of some, OSSAA also is not ransacking the public treasury for its financial support. The majority of the supporting revenue for all of our member schools’ activities comes from ticket sales at OSSAA championship playoff events in basketball and football. As a non-profit organization, OSSAA distributes a substantial portion of this revenue back to the member schools. Some minor fees are charged to member schools, based on the number of activities in which they choose to participate, but those fees are charged to all member schools, public and private, and make up only a small part of OSSAA’s budget.
I am proud of the hard work put in by our Staff, our Board Members, our member school administrators and coaches, and our volunteers in each of our activities. I believe that the member schools as a whole remain open-minded to respectful debate and willing to consider proposals for improvements. I dispute anyone who contends that OSSAA is trying to operate behind closed doors or misspend the funds entrusted to our organization.