Monday, April 09, 2001

Coaching law meets criticism

The Associated Press

        ASHLAND, Ky. — The Kentucky High School Athletic Association has concerns about an amendment to a law that would allow high schools to hire nonteaching personnel as coaches in all sports.

        The amendments were tacked on to House Bill 191, which originally was intended only to allow seventh- and eighth-grade students to participate on high-school wrestling teams.

        But several amendments were added and Gov. Paul Patton signed them into law March 20.

        Schools have been permitted to have nonteaching personnel coach sports besides basketball and football, but the revenue sports had never been included.

        Assistant Commissioner Julian Tackett of the athletic association said his agency has several questions, starting with why it wasn't consulted.

        “We have mixed feelings, partly because we weren't asked for any input. We have some questions about liability,” Mr. Tackett said. “It opens up the pool to retired teachers and retired coaches, but it also opens the door for people who don't have the schools' best interests in mind.”

        The bill's original sponsor, Rep. Robin Webb, a Grayson Democrat, said members of the education committees in the House and Senate addressed concerns about the amendments.

        “I don't have to consult with them, the people elected me,” Ms. Webb said of the KHSAA. “If the education people are happy with it, I don't care what the KHSAA thinks.”

        Ms. Webb said she's confident school administrators will take every measure to ensure qualified individuals supervise student-athletes.

        “I have faith in my school boards and site-based councils. That's where the buck stops,” Ms. Webb said. “Preferably, I'd like to see teachers fill the positions, no question. But I have confidence in the people hiring those who will fill those positions.”

        But Mr. Tackett sees problems on the horizon, starting with coaches who don't have interests in the schools they represent.

        Mr. Tackett said it's common sense to understand that a coach will act differently if his or her livelihood isn't being threatened.

        “We see it as dangerous because their jobs aren't on the line,” he said. “I know if I'm a teacher and I go out and act like a fool that I'll be in the principal's office the next day. But if I work down at the liquor store and do the same thing, my position isn't on the line.”

        But some administrators say the new law allows more hiring flexibility.

        “What if you have a head football coaching position open and the only teaching position available is a French position?” Ashland athletics director Mark Swift said. “The option is to hire from within or find a French-speaking football coach.”

        Mr. Swift points out the minor sports have already been operating under the guidelines.

        Ms. Webb said providing a level playing field for all sports was a driving force behind the bill.


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