A proposal that would appreciably alter the landscape of Kansas high school athletics received “no opposition” Wednesday from the executive board for the Kansas State High School Activities Association.
In a presentation to the executive board in Topeka, Paola athletic director Jeff Hines implored 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 initially replied Wednesday morning that they would take the matter under advisement. But the board later issued a statement saying it will not oppose a proposal to amend Kansas statute 72-130, which states that KSHSAA must “establish a system for the classification of member high schools according to school attendance.” The amendment would entail eliminating the requirement to classify solely by attendance.
“It’s short of a ringing endorsement, which is what we’re after, but it’s a step forward,” Hines said, earlier stating, “I think they were overwhelmed by this. 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 classification study committee that would change the number of schools competing in each class. But that plan — which still 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 that calls for student attendance to serve as the end-all, be-all classification factor.
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.
And a year ago, when Hines introduced a Senate bill, the Kansas Senate told him that it would not reverse the law without KSHSAA’s backing. Hines said he has been given indication from lawmakers that with KSHSAA endorsement, they would be more inclined to move in the same direction.
The executive board discussed the matter more fully later Wednesday before releasing a statement saying it “expresses no opposition to the proposed revision of (Kansas statute) 72-130.” To be clear, that position is in relation only to the amendment of the statute, not a full endorsement of a multiplier or modifier, for which no specific plan was presented Wednesday.
KSHSAA executive director Gary Musselman said he will instruct Hines and Heatherly to re-introduce the Senate bill. On the KSHSAA hurdle, the idea would still need approval from the board of directors before being opened to a vote from the member schools.
“There are too many things to predict it with certainty,” Musselman said. “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.”
Before the stance of no opposition was made public on Wednesday evening, board member Terry Ostmeyer told his peers, “I believe it is this board’s duty to make a decision. I believe we were elected to this board to make tough decisions.”
Those words followed a presentation in which Hines and Heatherly produced a self-conducted survey showing statewide support.
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 athletic 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 predetermined 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 during 2005-14, private schools accounted for only 7.6 percent of the high schools in Kansas but won 31.9 percent of state-championship events.
“This was a huge thing to accomplish in one day,” Hines said. “That said, if that’s all the board does, I’m still going to ask the members schools to contact the executive board members and request they formally state they support it. But we’re going to give them some more time to analyze the information we provided.”