On April 7, the Illinois General Assembly voted to pass House Resolution 895 by a 55-51 vote, which calls for the Illinois High School Association (IHSA) to meet with the Education Committee for hearings.
“We felt unfairly targeted with the way this all came about,” said IHSA Executive Director Marty Hickman. “But what’s done is done. The hearings are going to happen, so our mindset now is the sooner the better. We want to show the Representatives how we operate and clear up any misconceptions they may have.”
During her time on the floor introducing the resolution for a vote on April 7, Representative Chapa LaVia, who authored the Resolution, cited several reasons that fellow representatives should vote in favor of the hearings. She has cited “accountability” and “transparency” in several publications as key reasons as well.
“The portion of the resolution that calls for the ISBE to take over the IHSA put us all on the defensive initially,” said Wauconda High School Principal and IHSA Board President Dan Klett. “The Representative has publicly stated that is no longer her intention, which has brought some comfort to this process.”
Klett continued, “Our Board is charged with the oversight of the IHSA and many of the Association’s operations that have been called into question. For the sake of our member schools, the representatives of the General Assembly and the general public, we felt it was important to begin this process immediately. Thus, I have asked Dr. Hickman and his staff to address Representative Chapa LaVia’s concerns she expressed on the floor to the General Assembly. We hope this can be an amicable first step in this process and look forward to discussing this in greater detail.”
Three videos provided by the livestream coverage
of the House Floor featuring Representative Chapa LaVia addressing IHSA issues are posted in their entirety below, followed by an IHSA explanation and comments from IHSA Executive Director Marty Hickman when relevant:
Rep. Chapa LaVia: “Because there is plagiarism happening” (Video 1, :42)
The IHSA privately contracts individuals each year to write questions for the IHSA Scholastic Bowl State Series. In the weeks leading up to the 2013 Scholastic Bowl State Finals, one of the tournament question writers accused two other question writers of plagiarism. Each year, multiple questions will face scrutiny among the group for a variety of reasons, including plagiarism. A privately contracted editor (Sister John Baricevic, Belleville) hears the arguments and makes a final determination on whether certain questions are used or not. In an attempt to avoid future accusations the IHSA has since added computer software that aids in making questions “pristine” and avoiding plagiarism.
Hickman: “Sister John Baricevic has been the IHSA Scholastic Bowl editor for nearly two decades and we stand by her and appreciate her commitment to scholastic bowl. We believe her to be a person of the utmost professionalism and integrity, and are proud to have her be a major part of this program.”
Rep. Chapa LaVia: “Because the Attorney General has asked questions of them (IHSA) and they have not been forthright” (Video 1, :45)
In 2011, a disabled student-athlete from a member high school petitioned the IHSA to compete in a separate division for disabled student-athletes at the IHSA Swimming State Finals. It was the first such request in the Association’s 100-plus year history, and the IHSA Board commissioned a committee to look into the feasibility and interest of such a program. While the committee worked, the Attorney General filed suit against the IHSA for discrimination on behalf of the student-athlete. The IHSA Board ultimately approved the committee’s recommendation to offer separate state final events for disabled student-athletes in cross country, swimming, bowling and track & field, which began with the 2012-13 school year. Several aspects of the lawsuit have since been settled, although some remain unsettled.
Hickman: “We are not aware of any allegations from the Attorney General of not being forthright throughout this process. Litigation is often long and contentious, but I think both parties agree in this instance that the important part is that our committee and Board have created additional opportunities for disabled student-athletes in Illinois.”
Rep. Chapa LaVia: “The contracts that they (IHSA) have at all of these championships, is only their (IHSA) contracts, so the food vendors, Nike, Gatorade all of that is their (IHSA) contracts and we (General Assembly) don’t have any say” (Video 2, :07)
The IHSA does have contracts with several corporate sponsors who help supplement their events (Country Financial, Baden, Gatorade, Minerva Promotions, Nike Football, etc.) and offset the expenses of the state tournaments that operate at a deficit. All IHSA contracts are approved and reviewed by the IHSA Board of Directors, a group of principals from around the state who volunteer their time and resources to serve the membership. The IHSA does not have any food contracts with outside vendors, nor with food vendors inside any of the venues that host its events, nor does the IHSA set any concession prices at any of its State Series events.
Hickman: “We believe that establishing relationships with reputable companies whose values align with the Association is very beneficial to our schools. The financial contributions of these partners allows us to have a model in place where schools pay no entry fees or membership dues. Also, for example, our ball provider (Baden) supplies balls to every postseason tournament site for every round, so schools are never required to buy any specific balls. They can use the product of their choosing in the regular-season and our ball provider supplies the postseason balls. Over the past 10 years, 34 different principals have served on the IHSA Board, providing vast and ever-changing oversight of these agreements.”
Rep. Chapa LaVia: “And they also have the only broadcasting contract” (Video 2, :21)
The IHSA has negotiated broadcasting contracts to air its state tournaments dating back to the inception of live television, a common practice among most state high school associations in the country. In 2011, Gannett Newspapers sued the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association (WIAA) over their ability to sell exclusive broadcast rights. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit (which includes Illinois) ruled in favor of the WIAA to be able to continue this practice.
Hickman: “Truth be told, television it is not a profitable venture and state final broadcasts would likely have gone away several years ago if it weren’t for the support of one of our great partners, Country Financial. We have been (legally) challenged on this once or twice, but the ruling from the WIAA case tends to win the day. I’m no expert in this area, but it would seem to me that had the WIAA ruling gone the other way, it would have had ramifications beyond high school, as there are many publicly funded universities and conferences with exclusive broadcast contracts.”
Rep. Chapa LaVia: “And supposedly, people want to take photos of their kids winning, and they can’t even take pictures of their kids winning because someone was hired by the (IHSA) to take pictures. So they have to take pictures and we have to buy them off those journalists” (Video 2, :27)
In this instance, the Representative is misinformed, as there are no restrictions on taking photographs or requirements to buy them from any vendors. She may be referencing the 2008 lawsuit settlement between the IHSA and Illinois Press Association over the rights to sell photos taken at IHSA State Final events. The IHSA continues to partner with Visual Image Photography, who makes photos of IHSA State Final events available on its website for purchase. Newspapers can also continue to sell images they shoot at state final events. The IHSA has long made special photo zones available at state final events for parents to shoot photos of its award ceremonies when the venues are conducive to such action. For example, at the Individual Wrestling State Finals, fans are allowed on the arena floor to shoot the award ceremonies.
Rep. Chapa LaVia: “They may not call it membership, they may call it assessments and every school district pays a certain amount of money to be a part of the IHSA” (Video 3, :12)
No IHSA member school pays any type of member fee, assessment or otherwise to be a member of the Association. Nor do they pay entry fees to participate in any state tournament series. In the IHSA Music State Series, participating schools pay the host schools directly to help cover the cost of adjudicator fees for the event. The IHSA also produces tourism dollars all over the state as individuals attend Regional, Sectional, Super-Sectional and State Final tournaments at various locations.
Hickman: “We returned over $2.7 million dollars to our member schools last year. Localizing it for Representative Chapa LaVia, East Aurora High School has hosted an IHSA Boys Basketball Sectional three of the past four years and received $24,502 dollars from the IHSA through its host guarantee and share of gate receipts. That amount doesn’t include any additional revenue the school made on concessions and programs.”
Rep. Chapa LaVia: “The Issue with Scholastic Bowl is enough to make you want to say, what is going on there” (Video 3, :53)
The Scholastic Bowl issue was addressed above in the first question.
Rep. Chapa LaVia: “And the Auditor General has questions” (Video 3, 1:02)
If the Auditor General has questions for the IHSA, we welcome him to contact the Association.
Rep. Chapa LaVia: “Oh and by the way, we have kids who are disabled who are unable to participate” (Video 3, 1:28)
The IHSA has long granted accommodations to disabled individuals to allow them to participate with their high school teams, including individuals like Matthew Juskie, a visually impaired golfer from Lincoln-Way North golfer who spoke to the IHSA’s committee that reviewed the possibility of beginning separate events for disabled athletes (an interview Matthew conducted with the committee is posted below). In 2012, the IHSA added separate state series events for disabled student-athletes in cross country, bowling and track, along with the only state association sponsored swimming program in the country for disabled student-athletes.
Hickman: “We have tried to be inclusive in everything that we do. Throughout the years when we had visually impaired golfers like Matthew Juskie or basketball players with prosthetic limbs come to us, we granted them exemptions so that they could be a part of their high school team, because that was what they wanted. I’m also incredibly proud of the work our committee and Board did to create new, separate events when the idea was first brought to us in 2012. We believe these programs will only continue to grow.”
Rep. Chapa LaVia: “So, in the state of Illinois I don’t know one other department, not one other department, that we (General Assembly) created that has no oversight by the General Assembly” (Video 3, 1:47)
Again, the Representative is misinformed. The Illinois High School Association (IHSA) was founded on December 27, 1900, by a group of high school principals at the annual meeting of the Illinois State Teachers Association. The IHSA was not created by, and has never been associated with the government of the State of Illinois.
Matthew Juskie Video: