IHSAA Commissioner Bobby Cox weighs in


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Editor’s note: This is IHSAA Commissioner Bobby Cox’s response to an article that recently appeared in the Times of Northwest Indiana. The article stated that IHSAA Bylaw 20-2 — which pertains to athletic recruitment — could target and declare potential high school student-athletes ineligible if recruitment was found.

Recently a newspaper article has been written about a change in the by-laws of the Indiana High School Athletic Association which speaks directly to attempted undue influence exerted upon students below the level of grade nine and their parents. While I appreciate the attention this initial coverage has brought to this topic, its flavor is tainted with inaccuracies that need to be addressed.

For over 109 years, the Indiana High School Athletic Association has provided structure and context for high schools in our state to conduct interscholastic athletic competitions. In the second Article of Incorporation, language is provided that supports the proper priority that education-based athletics in our state should hold. In part, the Article reads as follows:

“All such interschool athletic competition coming under regulation by this Corporation shall be subservient to and complementary to the academic or curricular functions of the member schools for which are their primary purposes.”

Initially, the Corporation’s by-laws are only extended to member schools and students attending those schools in grades nine through twelve. Any overture that would suggest this Association is attempting to disqualify elementary or middle school students from athletic eligibility while enrolled in elementary or middle school is false at best and sensationalist at worst. More importantly, a careful examination of Rule 20-2 reveals that a student subject to this rule shall receive limited eligibility during the time said student is attending the member school rather than being ruled ineligible for any participation. Limited eligibility allows a student the opportunity to participate at a member school, albeit at a level below the varsity squad. Finally, the provisions of Rule 20-2 do NOT apply to students that reside with their parents or bona fide legal guardians as delineated in letter c. of the rule.

To date, the provisions of Rule 20-2 have not been implemented in a particular case.  Stating this, the Association is attuned to the increasing negative influences being placed upon parents and students. Principals and athletic administrators across the Hoosier state continually seek the Association’s assistance and guidance in the area of athletic participation. The recruitment of students to attend certain high schools and play for certain high school coaches is growing and to that end, I hold great concern.

As it was when this Corporation was formed and as it continues today, education-based athletics shall remain subservient to the academic and curricular purposes of our 410 member schools. While the IHSAA organizes, supervises and administers athletic programming across our state, it shall never do so in a manner that compromises the academic pursuits of our members.

Bobby Cox is the Commissioner of the IHSAA. Contact him at bcox@ihsaa.org

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