TOPEKA — A proposal that would appreciably alter the landscape of Kansas high school athletics was received with a to-be-determined response Wednesday from the executive board for the Kansas State High School Activities Association.
In a presentation to the executive board in Topeka, Paola athletics director Jeff Hines urged support for a project that calls for the state to adopt a multiplier or modifier rule, which would adjust the enrollment of private schools before determining their classifications in sports. Such a proposal would require not only an amendment to the KSHSAA handbook but also one to a Kansas state law.
As part of an hour-long discussion, Hines and his partner in the mission, Girard Middle School principal Randy Heatherly, presented evidence that shows better than 80 percent support for the measure from state high schools.
Members of the executive board replied that it would take the matter under advisement before determining whether or not to push it forward to a board of directors meeting on April 28.
“Their feedback was very encouraging to me. I think they were overwhelmed by this,” Hines said. “There’s a shock factor to it. Knowing there’s a problem and knowing how big the problem is are two totally different things.”
In a separate but related matter Wednesday, KSHSAA approved a proposal from its relatively newly-formed classification study committee that would alter the number of schools competing in each class. But that plan — which next requires approval from the board of directors and then a majority vote by the schools — does not include any form of multiplier or modifier.
Instead, the classification committee indicated a preference to work around the Kansas state law — statute 72-130 — which states that the high school activities association must “establish a system for the classification of member high schools according to school attendance.
Those two hurdles have bounced Hines between Kansas lawmakers and KSHSAA — neither of them opting to blink first in changing the current setup. KSHSAA has long cited the statute as reasoning for its apprehension to make headway on the issue.
And yet a year ago, when Hines introduced a Senate bill, the Kansas Senate told him that it would not reverse the law without KSHSAA’s clear support. But Hines said he has been given indication from lawmakers that with KSHSAA support, they would be more inclined to move in the same direction.
After receiving the data Wednesday, KSHSAA executive director Gary Musselman said he will instruct Hines and Heatherly to re-introduce the bill while the executive board evaluates its next step. If the executive board approves the plan, it would move on to the KSHSAA board of directors April meeting before being opened to a vote from the member schools.
“There are too many things to predict it with certainty. But I think the key thought here is these gentlemen delivered some really extensive research, and I think it was received very respectfully and appreciatively by our board,” Musselman said. “I think the board is committed to taking that information seriously and take it to heart. We’ll see how that affects things moving forward.”
In order to reach the board of directors agenda in late April, the executive board must approve the measure 40 days prior to that meeting. The executive board currently doesn’t have a meeting scheduled before that deadline, but some members expressed a willingness to schedule a special meeting or move up its current March meeting to vote on the matter.
“I believe it is this board’s duty to make a decision. I believe we were elected to this board to make these tough decisions,” board member Terry Ostmeyer said. “(But) I’m not ready to make that today. I believe that discussion with our leagues and areas need to happen. I would be supportive of a special meeting after the opportunity for (that) discussion.”
While Hines and Heatherly spoke Wednesday, they produced evidence of statewide support in the form of a survey they conducted this school year.
The survey generated responses from 284 of the 355 member schools. Responding to whether they would support a modifier or multiplier of some sort for private schools, 82.8 percent of principals responded they would, and 82.1 percent of athletics directors said the same. The majority of the opposition came from private schools, Hines said.
“This is the member (schools) saying they want something done,” Heatherly said. “This is a problem over decades. How much longer are we going to put it off?”
According to the survey, the issue received at least 64 percent support in all six classes. It had 92 percent support in Kansas Class 4A, where Johnson County-based Bishop Miege has dominated in recent seasons. The Stags are the reigning Kansas Class 4A Division I state champions in football, boys basketball, girls basketball, boys soccer, girls soccer and boys track.
“But this is not about one school, not about one class,” Hines said in his presentation.
During the meeting Wednesday, two board members questioned whether the 20 percent of schools who did not respond should have been marked as opponents of the proposal.
The overwhelming majority of those who did support a modifier prefer either a success modifier (40 percent) or a multiplier (31 percent), according to the survey results.
Under a multiplier rule, the enrollments of each private school would be multiplied by a pre-determined number. Missouri uses a multiplier rule for high school athletics.
With a success modifier rule, such an adjustment would be made based solely on the success of each sports program within the school. A board member questioned why public schools wouldn’t also be subject to a success modifier rule.
Over a 10-year period from 2005-14, private schools accounted for only 7.6 percent of the high schools in Kansas but yet won 31.9 percent of state-championship events.
“It would’ve been asking a lot for the executive board to take action today. I completely respect that they want to process this information,” Hines said. “Knowing that this information is going to be released to everybody today, that’s going to give them the opportunity to go home and get feedback.
“That being said, I don’t want them to come back in March and it’s too late to introduce a bill and have the hearing and the vote. The work needs to happen now.”