Alabama Lawmaker Poses Student-Athlete Eligibility Bill

Andy Berg Headshot

The Alabama House of Representatives has introduced a bill that would give the state school board more weight in deciding the eligibility of high school student-athletes.

The legislation comes in the wake of the controversial case of Maori Davenport, who was designated ineligible to play for violating the Alabama High School Athletic Association’s Amateur rule after a check was sent to her on accident.

“This legislation was the result of mounting frustrations with questionable decisions made by the association highlighted by the Maori Davenport decision,” Rep. Kyle South (R-Fayette) said.

Related: State Legislators Call for Davenport Reinstatement

According to Dothan Eagle, South’s bill would require the Alabama Board of Education to review and approve and any rules relating to participation before those rules can be adopted by the AHSAA. Additionally, the bill would require 25 percent of the membership membership of the organization’s governing body to consist of individuals appointed by the state superintendent of education or the state board of education.

“The state superintendent has one appointment to the governing board now and this would just expand that appointing authority in the same manner,” South said. “Other members of the governing body are made up of principals, superintendents and athletic directors from member schools.”

South said his goal is to make “minor changes” to create more accountability and transparency for the benefit of member school, student-athletes and fans.

AHSAA Central Board of Control president Johnny Hardin said in a statement that the AHSAA already has a system in place that would allow for changes to made to the Amateur Rule.

“The AHSAA Legislative Council has the authority each year at the annual meeting to amend the AHSAA Constitution and Rules. Meaning, each year the member schools (Including Charles Henderson High School) have an opportunity to change a rule or create new ones,” Hardin said, noting that no amendments have been made in the past 10 years.

While Davenport was mistakenly sent a check by USA Basketball for participation in a tournament, an exception was not made in her case. South said that decision was made to ensure that future student-athletes couldn’t take advantage of the system by claiming “they didn’t know the rule, thus allowing them to return the items and retain eligibility.” 

The Davenports have lost two appeals to the AHSAA, one at the district level and another at the Central Board. The family filed a lawsuit on Jan. 11 against the AHSAA and executive director Steve Savarese. The judge in the case ordered a hearing date of Feb. 22 and granted a temporary order that has allowed Maori to play. 

Related: Judge's Ruling Allows Suspended Player Back on Court


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