Bill allowing Governor to control athletic association moves to Senate floor

Students boy prepare to leaving the starting for relay race boy at school sports day. School sports day concept.
Changes regarding student choice of teams, 2-minute remarks at the beginning of games are also among the bill's proposed changes.

A measure putting the Governor in charge of all but one of the appointments to the Florida High School Athletic Association (FHSAA) is heading for the Senate floor.

A similar bill (HB 225) was passed in the House and has been sent to the Senate. It would give Gov. Ron DeSantis a power that only the Delaware Governor has, according to the Tampa Bay Times.

The bill sponsor, however, argued the legislation would put Florida more closely in line with how other states do it.

“This bill seeks to eliminate the monopoly and introduce choice and athletics mirroring what every other state in the union has in place,” said Sen. Jay Collins of Tampa.

The Senate Rules Committee passed the bill (SB 308) largely along party lines.

FHSAA’s Executive Director appeared before the committee and warned about the bill’s unintended consequences and urged the committee to vote it down. One of the bill’s provisions would make it so that a student can attend one school and play on the team of another, he said.

“Think about your son or daughter or your grandson or granddaughter who’s attending a school, and because a kid that comes from another school that doesn’t attend that school has taken up a roster spot, your son or daughter could get cut from a team by someone that doesn’t even attend that school,” Craig Damon said, invoking his history as a high school athletics coach.

The FHSAA, a private, nonprofit organization that oversees sports for grades 6-12, recently made headlines. The group proposed mandating female athletes answer form questions regarding their menstrual history. The group pulled that plan after backlash, however.

The similar House bill (HB 225) was drafted before that controversy erupted, said Rep. Fred Hawkins, the bill’s sponsor. Collins was not questioned on this controversy Thursday, however.

Under both Hawkins’ bill and Collins’, the board would shrink from its current 16 members to nine. Members would all be directly appointed by the Governor, except for the Education Commissioner, who gets a spot via the Governor-appointed state Board of Education.

Other changes include:

— Eliminating the provision that one board member be chosen “to balance the board for diversity or state population trends, or both.”

— Allowing for two-minute opening remarks for each school before events.

Sen. Darryl Rouson asked Damon whether anyone had consulted with him about the proposed changes. No one had, Damon said. For that reason, Rouson said he couldn’t support the bill.

“Mr. Damon brought up a plethora of issues, a number of concerns and with his 30 years experience with the law and the rules promulgated by FHSAA. And wondering why he wasn’t consulted. And I know we don’t talk to every subject matter expert when we file bills, but this seems to be a major overhaul,” Rouson said.

But Sen. Dennis Baxley cited his advisory role regarding the FHSAA in his decision to support the bill.

“I think it’s a new day,” Baxley said. “For a long time. FHSAA has been able to operate under its own autonomy. … It has a long, deep history and maybe one reason you had a lot of stability over the years. It has a lot of coaches on there … they’re there to watch their porkchop. I actually think this remake is going to be refreshing.”

Another Senate bill (SB 190) related to athletics and deemed “similar” legislation, would extend to charter school students the same provisions now offered to students who are homeschooled, as this bill does.

Both bills enable charter school students to play for willing private schools rather than the public school to which they’d otherwise be assigned. That bill, which Sen. Erin Grall introduced, received unanimous support from the Senate floor and has been sent to the House.

Grall’s bill does not touch on FHSAA governance and board makeup, however.

Anne Geggis

Anne Geggis is a South Florida journalist who began her career in Vermont and has worked at the Sun-Sentinel, the Daytona Beach News-Journal and the Gainesville Sun covering government issues, health and education. She was a member of the Sun-Sentinel team that won the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for coverage of the Parkland high school shooting. You can reach her on Twitter @AnneBoca or by emailing [email protected].


  • Dr. Franklin Waters

    March 30, 2023 at 10:41 am

    When Republicans say they want “Small Goverment” they really mean they want all the power concentrated into one guy. Somebody who can “Dictate”, if you will, what happens.

  • Rob Desantos

    March 30, 2023 at 10:58 am

    Control Control Control!

Comments are closed.


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