Claremore Daily Progress

Sports

September 17, 2013

Legislator: OSSAA's power too expansive

OKLAHOMA CITY — A state legislator said Monday a three-week review of the organization that oversees Oklahoma’s high school athletes, debate teams and cheerleaders was prompted by his concern that no one regularly watches the group and its $5 million budget funded in part by public school money.

The House Administrative Rules Committee will meet Tuesday to discuss the private, nonprofit Oklahoma Secondary Schools Activities Association.

“There is no oversight,” Rep. Bobby Cleveland, R-Slaughterville, said. “The buck stops with them, and that’s it. If you don’t like their decision, you can go to district court.”

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 has an annual operating budget of about $5 million.

Cleveland, a first-term legislator, said he’s fielded numerous complaints about the OSSAA, and those numbers grew after he unsuccessfully sponsored a bill last year that would have allowed home-schooled students to participate in public school extracurricular activities.

He also wants the association to be regularly audited by the state and subject to open meeting and open records laws.

OSSAA Executive Director Ed Sheakley said it’s not uncommon for people to get upset with the association, which has to make rulings in cases like hardship waivers for student transfers, as well as assign referees and develop playoff pairings for end-of-season tournaments.

“It’s the nature of the beast that there are going to be people unhappy with our decisions,” Sheakley said. “But also take into account we have 150,000 students who participate in our activities, both in the athletic and non-athletic arena. It’s likely you’re going to hear from some people who are disgruntled.”

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