What was the judge in Wichita thinking?
Sedgwick County District Judge Robert Bell ruled last Friday that the Kansas State High School Activities Association, a mainstay in the state for almost 60 years, had been operating on an unconstitutional grant of legislative authority and stripped the KSHSAA of its power.
The ruling has not taken effect, yet. The KSHSAA is functioning this week at its offices in Topeka while the organization's administrators scurry, planning to appeal the judge's decision.
As Lawrence High, athletic director Ron Commons said: "I don't think they've realized the can of worms opened now."
The can is opened and people don't realize the contributions of the KSHSAA, which governs athletic, drama, music and speech programs at the state's junior and senior high schools.
Among other positives, the KSHSAA coordinates state tournaments, stresses sportsmanship and organizes an annual coaching school. This year's school is Aug. 2-4.
In all likelihood, the coaching school will go as planned and the KSHSAA still will be in charge when practices for fall sports begin in mid-August.
The lawsuit threatening the KSHSAA stemmed from two Wichita parents' gripe about restrictions limiting off-season basketball teams to no more than three players from the same high school. Similar rules apply to football (six from a 11-man and five from eight-man) and volleyball (four).
The organization's rules regarding off-season activities has long been a thorn in the KSHSAA's side. In fact, Kansas University basketball coach Roy Williams testified on behalf of the plaintiffs and questioned the restrictions.
I agree. Parents should determine which sport or activities their children participate in during the summer without KSHSAA involvement.
But not every high school athlete's summer has to include athletics. The three-month break is the most opportune time for them to work full-time, vacation with their families and not have to worry about making a daily practice.
If the judge's decision is upheld, the athletes will be pressured from coaches who'll try to persuade them to stop working and practice all summer with his team or risk losing a spot in the starting lineup.
For years, the state's premier athletes have compensated by practicing on their own anyway. Like Lawrence High boys basketball coach Jack Schreiner recently said, "How did Aaron Butler get so good? He practiced every day." Butler was a key member of the Lions' state championship team and earned a scholarship to play at Brown University of the Ivy League.
The judge could have ruled on the specific off-season activities instead of disbanding the KSHSAA. He could have given the KSHSAA a tuneup instead of an overhaul.
Can you imagine state high school athletics without a governing body?
Among others, I envision this scenario: A standout athlete who excels in more than one sport plays football for a perennial power in the fall and decides to change schools in time to play for a state power in basketball.
High school athletics doesn't need that.