The Norman Transcript

State/Region

September 18, 2013

Sports governing board faces criticism

OKLAHOMA CITY — Parents, coaches and school administrators voiced numerous complaints on Tuesday about a lack of oversight of the organization that oversees tens of thousands of Oklahoma high school athletes, cheerleaders and other extracurricular activities.

People from across Oklahoma were invited by legislators to testify before the House Administrative Rules Committee about their experience with the private, nonprofit Oklahoma Secondary Schools Activities Association. Tuesday’s day-long hearing is one of three such meetings scheduled before the committee over the next month to determine whether more transparency and oversight is needed for the association.

“Because the OSSAA makes decisions that affect so many lives and derives money that is public in nature, there must be accountability and transparency,” said Rep. Bobby Cleveland, R-Slaughterville, who requested the study. “It is our intent to answer serious, significant questions that have arisen.”

Among the complaints voiced Tuesday were from parents who were upset about OSSAA’s decisions on transfer requests and from football coaches concerned about the way revenue is shared from high school football playoff games. Lawmakers also heard from the athletic director at Bishop McGuinness High School, a private Catholic school in Oklahoma City, who complained about the rules governing private schools.

The OSSAA oversees extracurricular activities for nearly every public school in Oklahoma for grades seven through 12, including the makeup of athletic districts, playoffs and student transfers and eligibility, among other things. It is governed by a 14-member board of mostly school principals and superintendents and had an annual operating budget last year of $5.4 million.

Much of the association’s revenue comes from gate receipts for high school playoff games, which generated more than $4.5 million last year, according to the agency’s financial statements. After expenditures associated with the playoffs, the association reported netting about $1.8 million.

Kim Longest, head football coach at Duncan High School and president of the Oklahoma Football Coaches Association, said the association has been unwilling to negotiate over how the playoff revenue is divided.

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