11 months ago

Maori Davenport rule? State Rep. Kyle South has bill drafted to bring oversight, accountability to AHSAA

While it may be too late to save USA Basketball star Maori Davenport’s senior season at Charles Henderson High School in Troy, one prominent state legislator has drafted a bill to bring public oversight and accountability to the Alabama High School Athletic Association (AHSAA) moving forward.

As the AHSAA continues to get battered by criticism over its decision to rule Davenport ineligible because of a mistake the association admitted was the fault of others, state Rep. Kyle South (R-Fayette) is attempting to fix a problem that he views as much more than an isolated poor decision by the AHSAA.

In an interview with Yellowhammer News during the first day of the House organizational session on Tuesday, South explained that the AHSAA’s lack of accountability and transparency has been an issue – and prickly point of contention with state lawmakers and officials – going back for years.

While the Davenport situation has given the AHSAA a fresh black eye on the national stage, change has been a long time coming. And, seeing that South already has a whopping 87 House cosponsors, and counting, signed on after just one day back in Montgomery, 2019 might just be the year that change finally happens.

Per a copy of the draft bill obtained by Yellowhammer News, South’s legislation would do three main things.

First, it would mandate that any rules by the AHSAA regarding a student athlete’s eligibility be reviewed and approved by the State Board of Education. This is directly addressing the type of situation that Davenport now faces.

Second, South’s bill would codify that 25 percent of the AHSAA governing body be appointed by the State Board of Education or the State Superintendent of Education. This composition would need to be put into place by January 1, 2020, and would provide public accountability throughout all aspects of the AHSAA’s governance.

Which leads into the third change: the legislation would require that the Department of Examiners of Public Accounts audit the AHSAA in the same manner as it would a public agency.

While the AHSAA is a private organization and prides itself on the autonomy therein, South views these changes as reasonable, constructive measures of accountability seeing that the AHSAA boasts membership consisting mostly of public entities, relies on money sent to it by these public entities and holds the majority of its events on public properties.

In fact, South said “in a roundabout way,” the AHSAA subsists off of public funds.

“The majority of their revenues are from gates, during playoffs in every sport, where a third of that money has to be paid back to the AHSAA in the form of a check from the schools,” South explained. “And at the point that they cut a check from a [public] school, it’s public funds. So, for them to say that we don’t have any authority whatsoever over them, technically we could cut off their funding. And that’s not what I’m aiming to do, but if we need to we could go down that road.”

At the end of the day, if the legislature really wanted to, it could create a publicly run entity within or overseen by the State Department of Education to replace the AHSAA. That would possibly be the most extreme solution and one that South is not currently proposing. But he did advise that other states governed their high school athletics by doing just that.

The House of Representatives’ will to get involved and shake up the AHSAA did not happen overnight.

“I think this one situation [regarding Davenport] has highlighted some ongoing issues, and while it’s brought forth things to light for many people, we’re not doing this just because of this one incident. This is a cumulative thing, where there have been situations over the years that have led to this. And [Davenport’s] situation is the one that broke the camel’s back,” South outlined.

From South’s perspective, the AHSAA has general oversight and accountability problems that are leading to poor decisions by the association, which in turn produce poor outcomes for student-athletes and schools.

“My biggest problem with [the AHSAA] is that the schools make up the board members obviously … but for fear of retribution by their governing body, nobody ever brings up any issues and it becomes somewhat of a dictatorship at that point,” South advised. “If you’re scared to say your piece for fear of retribution, then you’ve got a big problem.”

Davenport and South at the Alabama State House on Tuesday
(Rep. South/Facebook)

While South has not moved onto finding a senator to carry the bill in that chamber or solicit Senate cosponsors quite yet, the representative did tell Yellowhammer News that both chambers received a special visit from Davenport herself on Tuesday. State Rep. Wes Allen (R-Troy) and the mayor of Troy helped introduce her around to share her story.

The basketball sensation spoke to the House majority caucus and even gave an address on the Senate floor.

South said that Davenport “obviously has a lot of talent, and unfortunately she’s just being kept from showing those talents right now.”

“That’s the unfortunate part,” South added.

But, like South believes, Davenport emphasized to the legislators Tuesday that even if they cannot resurrect the remainder of her senior season, they can prevent this type of situation happening to any more student athletes in Alabama moving forward.

“I don’t know if anything we can do can get her back on the court, but I would like to put as much pressure in place to see that happen as possible and prevent a similar thing happening in the future,” South stressed.

With 87 House cosponsors in one day (South believes that he will end up with over 90 representatives cosponsoring when all is said and done), he is certainly making waves.

“If that doesn’t get somebody’s attention, I don’t know what will,” South remarked.

He expects to prefile the bill when the House organizational session adjourns sine die. The last possible day of the organizational session is Thursday, January 17.

Alabama Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh and Lieutenant Governor-elect Will Ainsworth have called on the AHSAA to reinstate Davenport’s eligibility immediately, as have additional state legislators from both parties, including state Rep. Chris England (D-Tuscaloosa) and Allen.

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

9 hours ago

Mayor Randall Woodfin throws down the gauntlet at Birmingham Business Alliance meeting

BIRMINGHAM — Delivering opening remarks at the Birmingham Business Alliance’s (BBA) annual meeting on Wednesday, Magic City Mayor Randall Woodfin challenged the region’s business leaders to stop being so “risk averse.”

Woodfin opened his speech with words of praise for outgoing BBA chairwoman Nancy Goedecke and incoming chairman Jim Gorrie.

He then transitioned into a call-to-action.

“Usually I would get up here and give you all some stats about what we’ve done and what we’ve accomplished,” the mayor advised. “I think it is fair to say that 2019 has been a good year for many [in] your organization — individually and collectively for our Birmingham Business Alliance.”

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Woodfin advised that the BBA leadership is pointing the region’s business community in the right direction.

“And the question is: as members of this organization, are we prepared? Are we ready?” he added.

“I don’t have to tell anyone in this room that since the Great Recession… 60% of all jobs have only gone to 25 cities in America,” Woodfin continued. “You need to know that Birmingham is not on that list. So the question becomes, when you walk out of this room, are we prepared to invest in our competitiveness? Do we want to compete? Do we want to set ourselves apart and not be like any other city in America?”

“We don’t have to be like Nashville or Chattanooga or Atlanta or Austin,” he said. “We need to be the best versions of ourselves.”

The mayor outlined the road to getting to that goal.

“That is going to require us to shake off the way we’ve always done things… just based on the sheer nature of what you do, you’re risk averse. But being risk averse in this time as we move into 2020 under Jim’s (Gorrie’s) leadership will not work for us as an organization or as a city. Or for the future and present of what we want our business community to be — to attract, retain, grow and many other things we have to do,” Woodfin stressed.

“As my challenge I leave to the members of this organization in this room, that we are willing to stand behind Jim, just as we did with Nancy (Goedecke), but really be aggressive,” he concluded. “Really be the opposite of risk averse and be hungry enough to do something that’s going to be different to make Birmingham a place that attracts more businesses and for the current businesses in this community to be and remain successful.”

RELATED: Almost two years in, Randall Woodfin reflects on biggest initiatives

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

13 hours ago

Above and beyond: Regions associate honored with Better Life Award after learning sign language to serve deaf customers

Regions Bank on Wednesday honored one of its Alabama associates in a major way for going above and beyond to better the lives of the company’s customers.

In a story posted on Region’s “Doing More Today” website, the company announced Gayla Land was presented with the Better Life Award. This is the top honor bestowed upon Regions associates “for outstanding dedication and job performance, as well as exemplary involvement and commitment to the community.”

For Land, a Regions Bank branch manager in Dothan, the genesis of the award goes back to 2016. She was reportedly serving a deaf customer but wanted to be able to do so better, as communicating properly was a real issue.

“I felt there was something missing. It frustrated me,” Land reminisced. “I could only provide what I could write down. I couldn’t share the information in his approved language.”

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The Regions associate turned that frustration into a solution. Land, on her own time, went out of the way to enroll in American Sign Language classes at the Alabama Institute for the Deaf and Blind.

However, her dedication did not stop there. She not only learned sign language herself but decided to strike up a partnership with the school.

“I fell in love with the deaf community and the language itself,” Land explained. “Then I told the school, ‘Let’s make a partnership to have them come into the branch for financial education seminars,’ and they agreed.”

The student subsequently became the teacher, as Land began teaching in sign language a series of lessons that cover money management, retirement, identity theft and fraud prevention. Her first group reportedly graduated earlier this year.

This is having a real impact on the lives of Regions customers with hearing impairments.

“They feel more confident in their ability to make financial decisions, and I learn something new every time they are with me.” Land advised.

Her commitment to the hearing impaired continued to be displayed Wednesday when she received the award from Regions. The company donates $1,000 in the honoree’s name to a nonprofit organization of his or her choice, and Land chose the Alabama Institute for the Deaf and Blind to receive the money.

“They do great work providing skills and education to the deaf and blind communities,” she remarked. “I know they will make great use of the money to provide for those families.”

However, her journey is not done yet.

Land is planning to sharpen her sign language fluency by taking advanced classes.

She also used her new platform to urge others to learn the language as well.

“Don’t be fearful or feel judged. Just try to learn. Even if it’s just one new word every day,” Land concluded. “Your eyes will be opened to a new perspective, and you’ll be embraced by the deaf community because you tried.”

You can watch an almost six-minute video on see Land’s work in action below or here.

RELATED: Merry and bright: How Regions’ headquarters building lights became a holiday tradition

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

13 hours ago

Auburn’s Bo Nix named SEC Freshman of the Year, Derrick Brown named best defensive player

The Southeastern Conference’s (SEC) 14 coaches have voted Auburn University quarterback Bo Nix as the SEC Freshman of the Year and defensive tackle Derrick Brown as the Defensive Player of the Year.

The honors were announced Wednesday by the league office. Coaches are not allowed to vote for their own players.

Brown was also named by the Associated Press as the AP’s SEC Defensive Player of the Year earlier in the week.

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Nix now holds the Auburn Tigers’ freshman record for passing yards (2,366), pass completions (200) and touchdown passes (15) in a season. The Alabama native also rushed for seven scores.

Brown had a monster season on the defensive side of the ball and landed as a finalist for just about every national award possible.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

14 hours ago

Rogers’ report from Washington: The season of giving across East Alabama

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Each Christmas season, I like to highlight a few of the kind things folks across East Alabama are doing for others.

Below is a small sample of ways our fellow Alabamians have cared for each other over the past year.

In Clay County at Central High School, a teacher, Amanda East, gathered the school supplies that were going to be disposed of from the locker clean out. Those items are now set up to donate to students who need them.

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In Lee County, The Hallmark Channel is coming to Beauregard to present new homes to the 15 families who lost everything when the EF-4 tornado devastated the area.

Hallmark will also serve residents a holiday meal at Providence Baptist Church with Santa and toys for the little ones, too.

In Calhoun County, Dara Murphy of Rosa Lee Boutique organized a White Bag Project for individuals to grab a white bag and fill it up for a child in need. They are also taking clothing and furniture to 20 families.

In Lee, Macon and Tallapoosa Counties, Rep. Peeblin Warren assists 400 seniors with gift baskets.

In Randolph County, the Roanoke Police Department is holding its annual toy drive to ensure local children get a Christmas gift.

In Chambers County, the Christian Service Center collects food and toys to donate to families.

In Montgomery County, Woodland United Methodist Church/Town of Pike Road distribute food. Pike Road and Central Alabama Health Care Systems also distribute hygiene items for local veterans.

Reading these stories makes me proud to be from East Alabama. It is truly heartwarming to see our brothers and sisters across the Third District taking time to take care for someone who needs it most.

May we carry this attitude of service to others all year long.

Wishing you and your families a very Merry Christmas. Remember the reason for the season.

U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers is a Republican from Saks. 

15 hours ago

Crimson Tide’s Jaylen Waddle named SEC Special Teams Player of the Year

University of Alabama sophomore wide receiver and returner Jaylen Waddle on Wednesday was announced as the Southeastern Conference (SEC) Special Teams Player of the Year.

He is the first Crimson Tide player to be named SEC Special Teams Player of the Year since Christion Jones in 2013. The honor was voted on by the league’s 14 head coaches, with coaches not permitted to vote for their own players.

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Waddle, who was already selected by Pro Football Focus as a first-team All-American at returner, led the nation this season in punt return average at 24.9 yards per return. Waddle had 19 punt returns for 474 yards and a touchdown, including a long of 77 yards.

The playmaker also returned four kickoffs for 152 yards and one touchdown this season, in addition to 553 yards and six touchdowns on 32 catches at wideout.

This comes after Waddle was one of 14 Bama players on Tuesday who were named to the All-SEC Coaches’ Team. He was actually named to both the first and second teams at different positions.

Juniors Jerry Jeudy (WR), Alex Leatherwood (OL) and Jedrick Wills, Jr. (OL) were first-team selections on offense, while redshirt senior Anfernee Jennings (LB) and junior Xavier McKinney (DB) were honored as first-team defense. Waddle was a first-team selection on special teams.

Redshirt junior center Landon Dickerson was named to the second-team offense along with juniors Najee Harris (RB), DeVonta Smith (WR), Tua Tagovailoa (QB) and Waddle (WR). Seniors Raekwon Davis (DL) and Trevon Diggs (DB) and redshirt junior linebacker Terrell Lewis were second-team choices on defense.

Waddle was named the SEC Freshman of the Year in 2018.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn