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Commissioner’s Remarks, 2011 KHSAA Annual Meeting

September 23, 2011 Athletic Department Blog Updates


Commissioner’s Remarks
General Session, 2011 KHSAA Annual Meeting

When I sat down a few weeks ago with our new board president and discussed the board’s evaluation from last year and plans for the coming year, he told me he thought I might want to take a different twist during this time I have with you. I had told him of many things that I had on my mind as we go forward, and plans for some operational changes and potential regulation changes. He looked at me and said, “That’s great. But don’t just tell me, tell them. Why don’t you do that when you have the schools together?” So if you are disappointed or disillusioned with this session, I guess we can share the blame (ha). I simply didn’t feel it was appropriate to stand in front of this group and lead you through the reading of our annual report. As adults, I should be able to tell you that the report is posted online and if you have questions, contact our office. So that’s what we are doing.

My philosophy is perhaps a little different than some of my predecessors. I don’t want to study something to death, or be comfortable “the way it’s always been done”. The great philosopher Yogi Berra once said “when you come to a fork in the road, take it”. There really is some truth there. I think for too long, as an association, we have stood at the fork in the road and spent far too much time trying to decide which way to go. Take the fork, it will take you somewhere.

We did have a very good year. I appreciate many of you taking time to share a kind word, encouragement, etc. Yes it’s different in this role for me, I will say that, but I pride myself on not forgetting where I came from, and what group we are here to service. I also will tell you that you will likely get notice in the coming weeks that my name is changing. Just to make it easier on the Kentucky Circuit court clerks, I am legally changing my first name to Defendant.

Let me talk for a moment about this past year. We had a good year financially. For the first time, our office has allowed our move to in-house counsel to fully implement and for the first time, the net proceeds from basketball weren’t used to pay lawyers. I continue to pray for the day when we have met our Board’s goal of financial solvency to the point where we can help with school travel reimbursements in an increased manner, and continue to expand our operations to help our member schools.

Hopefully you have noticed some of the changes this past year, in particular, hope you have noticed the pace of change. Blessed with a wonderful enthusiastic staff, who have basically grabbed hold and held on, and a cooperative and supportive Board of Control, we have moved forward at a quick pace to finish some long deferred items as well as get some of new ones done.

Included are –

  • Basketball alignment is, for now, put to bed for a few years as is football. With those changes, we have moved forward to aligning the sports of baseball, volleyball and softball for 2012-2013 to mirror the basketball regional alignments. That is a direct result of member feedback. Though there will still need to be minor adjustments within regions to ensure balanced numbers of teams in districts while maintaining geographic proximity, the major of the work is now ready for implementation. We have begun work in that same direction on soccer. But none of these moves are permanent, and the board has committed to another review of basketball in 2013 as we look to a new set of consolidations in far west Kentucky, and potential desires for changes around Jefferson and surrounding counties.
  • We have completed the movement of the annual Title IX reports to an online system. For those of you who like to work ahead, with your financial and budget numbers in hand from last year, you should be able to complete your title IX reports in minutes this coming spring, just as soon as those rosters are final for those sports.
  • The online roster system, which is the only way to certify eligibility is functional, and just next week, schools will be able to enter rosters in the non-scoreboard sports (such as golf, tennis and track) as well as those we don’t sponsor championships in (archery, lacrosse, hockey) so that your title ix reports and numbers are automatically generated.
  • Let me repeat, you will no longer be able to use any other system for submitting title ix reports or the annual participation lists. but if the rosters are maintained throughout the year, as you can see, your work will be nearly complete. And none of these technological advancements are outsourced, so we are not dependent on any outside vendor for assistance.
  • In addition, we were able to act on a three year old request from the membership, and add a second alternative method for prime date compliance with Title IX.
  • We were able to fully implement the Consolidation of the Medical Symposium and Sports Safety requirements into one course, totally deliverable online. Conservative estimates have that single move alone saving our schools nearly $150,000 in course registration fees and travel costs over the next two years on the Medical Symposiums alone.
  • The Board has given final approval to the addition of Bowling as an official sport activity within the association. This designation of sport activity will allow, for at least the next couple of years, these youngsters who have begun competing in this new sport to become involved and meet basic eligibility standards, but not unfairly apply the transfer rule standards until a full four year cycle of students has worked its way through the system. This is our first new sport since 1983 when we added softball, the year before I started. So certainly it has been a refreshing experience. In the coming months we will finalize the addition of archery and fishing to our list of sport activities. And as I have told countless groups, the great thing about these three additions is that they, in general, don’t cannibalize from any existing sport. This is a whole new group of students who have to make grades, meet eligibility standards, be in attendance and be held accountable, etc.
  • In addition, we will hold our first official state cheer championship during 2012-2013, using the various professional and experienced resources in our state and our own event management team.
  • We were also able to successfully extend the heat index requirements to the spring sports, hopefully continuing to minimize the risk of participation for our students.

Some of the other changes were operational and seem to have been well received.

  • You receive very few paper mailings from our office. Come to think of it, maybe that’s why the post office is having revenue issues. We were, in my opinion, printing and mailing when we should have been emailing and posting to web sites.
  • Many of our publications are in a new online format. We have kept the old fashioned PDF format as well. Those of you with iPods and other tablet computers probably have already figured out that the use of these PDFs is handy. For example, did you know by going to our handbook, you can click on the handbook link and instantly have the entire handbook on your tablet for reference? Or in pieces? For free?
  • The Board recently approved a recommendation to allow for a fairly major change in the Coaching Education program. We will begin next month allowing for the online version of the course to count as the Coaching Education requirement, a move that will allow Athletic Directors and Principals to make immediate hires with fairly instantaneous compliance with our requirements. We are able to make this change without lowering our level of support to the High School Athletic Directors Association, and reducing the cost to the coach from its current $90 level to a new fee of $75, a tremendous help to the coaches and schools.
  • We have also made a change in awards recently, as we will no longer present an oversized trophy to the basketball champions while minimizing what we give to the other team sports. Instead, using our football awards as a model, we have standardized the awards given in baseball, basketball, football, soccer, softball and volleyball. We will continue to look at the financial feasibility of such a move for all other sports in the future.
  • In addition, I was able to complete an internal review with external results – looking to eliminate any reports or information we are asking schools to provide that is of no use. In other words, don’t ask for it simply because we always have. We have several reports we will no longer be asking you for, or will be asking on consolidated forms versions. Frankly, my challenge to staff was to eliminate “busy work” for Athletic Directors and administrators. If we don’t do anything with the data, don’t ask for it.
  • These types of changes help us maintain and extremely high level of service to the membership in times of escalating costs and flat line revenues.

The last thing we had to do was look at some of our regulations, particularly, our interpretations of our rules. The new and increased regulatory scrutiny we are under since the mid 2000s has led to the need to be sure our regulations are in order.

  • One of our issues was the content of our case situations. Simply put, case situations cannot create rule, they can only explain it. For that reason, we had to make a few adjustments that will likely take some time for schools to decide if they like or don’t including:
  • Restrictions were lifted on off season coaching. These restrictions are not contained in the rules, and therefore new restrictions cannot be created through case situations. These restrictions are now at the local level to control. After we give some time for observation, we will probably see one or more of you with a proposal to create a rule on off season activity, but until then, the rule remains as written.
  • The same was true for school time restrictions in bylaw 25. Frankly, the KHSAA doesn’t have that jurisdiction; KDE does, so it was properly returned back to that level.
  • Still others were reviewed and the decision made with board approval to take interpretations and place them in the rules themselves, that the source of a couple of today’s proposals.

If we are to properly enforce our rules, we must have the rules written correctly.

Let’s spend just a couple of minutes looking forward. I think for too long we have been going backwards into the future, looking forward to the past. That has to stop. We can’t keep blindly using resources, time, effort and energy trying to re-create 1980. It’s that type of thinking that has brought us so much more scrutiny from outside entities such as the legislature and various other groups. This does not mean removing all rules however, as they are necessary. But we must work to find that balance.

We have to re-focus on truly doing what’s right for kids within our athletic programs. I am convinced that most of our problems as an Association are caused by adults wanting to argue with kids as an excuse, if we truly think about what benefits kids; it should be a great body of work. Our goal should be that every child is representing the school playing something. And to realize, it isn’t about us adults, whose time has long since passed and we cannot try and live vicariously through today’s kids.

So let me tell you of some things we will be doing this year to help with implementing much of the vision that I have and the board shares, for the future.

  • Athletic Administrator Meetings – We will announce within a couple of weeks, beginning right after state Golf, a series of meetings throughout state for those working athletic director/administrator types who need to have live demonstrations on technology, open discussion about rules and general advice about the programs. There will be totally voluntary and center on information exchange.
  • Over the next few months and years, our school administrators need to honestly ask the question, do we play too many games. With the increase in travel costs, it’s a wonder basic travel can be paid for. And I continue to marvel at how people can talk about how tight money is, and then have baseball teams travel thousands of miles and raise thousands of dollars, just to play each other.
  • Just as an example, basketball teams in our state will, in all likelihood, be able to play 30 games each year starting next year. How about this for comparison?
  • o Indiana allows 20 games with no tournaments, 18 plus 1 tournament (22 at most)
  • o Missouri – three options, with 22 as the most games
  • o Ohio 20 games maximum
  • o Tennessee -24 games, which must include two tournaments counting as two each, max of 26
  • o West Virginia – 21 games
  • o Virginia – 21 games
  • I am not picking on basketball, that’s just an example. But are we that much smarter than other states? Do we truly have the fortitude to vote in such a change, which obviously will not be well received by our coaches? We have created a situation with our limits that force schools to play a great deal of games every week just to get to the limit, we have to ask if that has an academic impact?
  • I have identified a core group of 16 athletic directors to serve on the first ever A D advisory committee. This committee won’t deal with policy (such as alignments, bylaws, etc.), but rather, will help ALL member schools by helping with procedures.
  • o How can we best design electronic systems?
  • o What forms work and what don’t?
  • o Is there a better way to get information out to parents?
  • This committee will also deal with the content of our KHSAA Bylaws exam, a project too long assigned both internally and externally without follow through
  • We have had to move some of our spring championships to try and stay out of the way of your testing. We know that each district controls, by controlling its calendar, the schedule of testing, but for us, that means spring sports championships are a floating target. For that reason, we have moved the start of spring sports up a few days to be sure things will all fit. In tennis, if we didn’t do this, we would lose a full week of competition. In baseball and softball, the same situation exists starting in a year or so. So we simply did what we had to do to make sure the kids get participation opportunities, but aren’t caught with the need to play many games back to back in order to play their contests.
  • We are also cautious about the full implementation of end of course assessments. This may, depending on implementation of the core testing requirement, require further change in our Bylaws, particularly bylaw 5. We will keep you informed.  If the testing results are delayed in any way, we may have to make adjustments in several of our rules. But we will pledge to stay as current as possible and to keep you informed.
  • In the next few weeks I will be appointing two other important groups of school people to help with looking at our future. A short term group will be looking at the request of the Kentucky Board of Education, at implementing the health and safety rules of the KHSAA at the middle school level. The subject is not about holding championships, that isn’t even mentioned as an objective. But applying such things as an age restriction, a limitation of seasons, coaching requirements, the heat index and concussion programs, and other safety related concerns to that as yet unregulated group.
  • The second group will embark on a long term study on what our rules should look like in the future. If we were starting over, what do the kids and coaches need as rules? We have to quit valiantly hanging on to 1985, and move our association and our rules forward to better position ourselves for survival in the future.

Simply put, TODAY’s kids deserve the opportunity to participate in our interscholastic athletic program. So how can we preserve what we love about interscholastic athletics? How do we protect the outside influences from eroding the essential core of our programs?

We do that by reiterating why we do what we do, and why we do it at this level. For that reiteration, I want to quote a dear friend who is a long time school administrator and now director for the New York Association, Nina Van Erk, who probably captured best why we all do what we do, at our level, and why that level is worth fighting for.

  • WE ARE HIGH SCHOOL – We are about school community, not all star teams. We are about healthy local rivalries as these interscholastic athletic events instill pride within the community and teach citizenship, competency, civility and commitment.
  • WE ARE HIGH SCHOOL. We establish effective Codes of Conduct. We hold athletes and coaches accountable for their actions and behavior. We focus on the values of sportsmanship.
  • WE ARE HIGH SCHOOL – We strike the balance between academics and athletics. We care for the safety of student athletes.
  • WE ARE HIGH SCHOOL – We teach and model integrity. We console, we mentor, and we parent as in many case as we are the only parenting available.
  • WE ARE HIGH SCHOOL – We set standards of fairness. We teach diversity. We encourage the acceptance of the weaknesses in others while training students to maximize their strengths and the strengths of others so that a common goal can be achieved. We are about memories.
  • WE ARE HIGH SCHOOL. We must tell everyone that we are the last remaining pure aspect of sport. Let’s share this notion at every opportunity we have.

As I close, remember that life is much more about attitude than aptitude, and together, with a positive attitude, we can make a difference.
Three short quotes I will leave you with-

  • Abe Lincoln once said “Most folks are about as happy as they make their minds up to be”.
  • Ben Franklin reportedly said “The Constitution only guarantees the American people the right to pursue happiness. You have to catch it yourself.”
  • Daniel Webster once said, “what is popular is not always right, and what is right, is not always popular”.

If you think about it, those thoughts should always be in the front of our mind. Are we the type who is surly and slogs and looks every day for something to complain about? Are we doing things for the right reason?

We’ve got some great happy places we’re going to go in the next few years, doing the right things on behalf of the kids participating. 

I hope you’ll come with us.


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