By Josh Moon
Alabama Political Reporter
Private schools have an unfair advantage and public schools in the Alabama High School Athletic Association shouldn’t be forced to compete against them, according to a bill filed by Rep. Ritchie Whorton.
Whorton argued in favor of his bill at a public hearing Wednesday, noting statistics that show private schools – particularly in spring sports – have won an abnormally high number of playoff games and state championships. His bill, if passed, would likely end participation in the AHSAA for private schools.
Whorton and Rep. Ed Henry complained that AHSAA executive director Steve Savarese had ignored their complaints about the issue, and Henry demanded that Savarese “show (Whorton) some respect.”
None of this was news was to Savarese and AHSAA officials, who have been working for more than a year on ways to level the playing field in specific sports. That includes addressing one of the primary complaints made by Henry and Whorton – that private schools hold distinct advantage because they can subvert AHSAA rules on recruiting.
The AHSAA earlier this year implemented a new investigative team that’s assigned to specifically track down instances of improper transfers and suspected recruiting.
“Our data shows the same things that have been discussed here, and it’s something that we’re working to solve, but there’s no single answer that could address the issue,” Savarese said. “Quite a few of our private schools have won zero playoff games and won zero state championships. How do we address them?”
Savarese said the AHSAA central board, which is made up of coaches, athletic directors and principals from member schools all over the state, is expected to pass two new bylaws next month that will directly address the concerns raised by Whorton and Henry. Savarese said he wasn’t at liberty to discuss the rules until they were voted on by the board.
In the end, there was no vote held on Whorton’s bill, and Henry told Savarese that he didn’t “want to get into your business, but I will if I have to.”
After the meeting, a longtime legislator who watched the hearing said, “I’d like to know the time that the Legislature getting involved in an issue like this made something better.”