High School Sports

Amendment would limit KHSAA's authority

Senate President Pro Tem Katie Stine has introduced legislation that would allow high-school athletes and their schools to obey court orders without fear of punishment from the Kentucky High School Athletic Association.

Currently, when a judge issues an order that reverses a ruling of the KHSAA, the association warns schools that they could face penalties if they obey and the order is ultimately overturned.

"An agency such as the KHSAA is not above the law," Stine, R-Southgate, said Tuesday. She also said Kentucky high schools should be encouraged to follow the law, not ignore it.

Stine said a 2005 case in her district pointed out the need for such legislation. Despite court rulings that allowed transfer student Michael Mitchell to play football at Highlands High School in Fort Thomas, the KHSAA fined the school $1,500, forced it to forfeit 13 games, put it on three years' probation and suspended the coach for two practice games and the first two regular season games in the 2005 season.

"Even though the Mitchell family prevailed, the sanctions were never rescinded," Stine said.

Most of the court orders at issue involve the KHSAA's transfer rule, which says an athlete can't play for one year after changing schools except under specific conditions.

Stine attached her legislation to House Bill 317, which covers academic, professional development and age requirements for coaches.

That bill has passed the House and is now in the Senate. Stine's amended version could be up for a vote Wednesday.

In several cases across the state, when a judge ruled in an athlete's favor, the KHSAA warned the athlete's school of impending fines and sanctions if the case was ever overturned.

Stine's legislation marks the second time in one year that state officials have tried to change the KHSAA policy.

Last March, Doug Hubbard, a member of the state Board of Education proposed adding language to the KHSAA bylaws that "no school or person shall be punished for following a court order."

But the amendment did not pass because KHSAA Commissioner Brigid De Vries argued that it was not fair to the opposing team to allow students ruled ineligible by the KHSAA to participate in games — even if the court says they can.

DeVries told the state board that Indiana and Tennessee also have rules that allow athletic associations to punish schools if the court order is later overturned.

Doing away with Kentucky's rule, she said, would allow a school to ignore KHSAA rules simply because someone files a lawsuit.

KHSAA spokesman Elden May could not immediately be reached for comment Tuesday.