Athletic directors and head coaches throughout the state were busy on the phone this past Wednesday, but not working on schedules or checking things throughout their department. They were voicing their opinion on a battle not on the field or the court, but at the state Capitol.
On the busy spring morning came a victory — for now — for the coaches and their programs.
At the behest of the Texas High School Coaches Association, coaches hit the phones to call state representatives serving on the Texas House Public Education Committee. They were voicing opposition to House Bill 1324, which, according to the association, had come up for vote in the committee.
According to its summary, the bill, introduced by Rep. James Frank, R-Wichita Falls, is "relating to equal opportunity for access by home-schooled students to University Interscholastic League sponsored activities."
The phone calls from those field houses far and wide worked.
In a social media post, the coaches association announced after the initial call to action that, "They have removed HB 1324 from consideration and WILL NOT EVEN be bringing it to a vote," along with the hashtags #YourVoiceIsStrong #UnitedForCoaches and #THSCAstrong.
The bill would allow home school students in Texas to compete in athletic or academic events "on behalf of the school in the same manner that the school provides the opportunity to participate to students enrolled in the school."
“It got shot down and it needed to be shot down,” said Longview athletic director John King. “The public school kids that we have are subject to state assessments, instructional guidelines, attendance requirements, practice limitations and a lot of other limitations that home school students don’t have.”
Citing literature from the coaches association — including "home school students have multiple opportunities to participate in club sports, summer sports and excellent academic competitions organized by multiple organizations other than the UIL" — King boiled down what it would mean for athletics were home school students allowed to compete as proposed.
“It would turn into a recruiting war,” he said. “We already have what I would call ‘super teams’ with kids moving in and people finding any reason in the world for a kid to transfer. Some of that can’t be proven but we all know it’s happening.
“You put this in place and then it’s going to be no-holds-barred, open Pandora’s Box and would not be good for high school athletics. It will be an ‘I want to go to that school because they’re good at this or that.’ It would be a mess.”
Eligibility and proficiency measures included in the bill state that "a home-schooled student must demonstrate grade-level academic proficiency on any nationally recognized, norm-referenced assessment instrument" and included several examples of testing services.
The bill, which passed the Texas Senate in April 2017, is also referred to as the Tim Tebow Bill, named after the former NFL and University of Florida quarterback who competed with a public school as a home school student. According to the Coalition for Responsible Home Education, 30 states currently allow home-schooled students access to public school athletics programs.
“If you want to play public school sports, go to a public school,” King said. “If it’s not good enough to come to as a student, then why is good enough to come to as an athlete.
“You can’t have your cake and eat it too. This is all about having a level playing field for extracurricular activities. That’s all this is, extracurricular activities. It’s not good for high school athletics and not good for coaches. This is a profession, not a hobby, for us.”
The message was loud and clear from coaches throughout the state this past week. Far from the field or court, the message was heard at the Capitol.
“Come sit up here in class if you want to play for the Lobos,” King concluded.