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Ala. High School Athletic Association Adopts Tougher Recruiting Rules

The Alabama High School Athletic Association's legislative council voted in eight proposals this week, including two that "now give the AHSAA some of the nation's toughest rules against recruiting," according to the organization.

One of the two adopted proposals regarding recruiting will cause school teams to be put on one-year "restrictive probation" if the AHSAA determines that they allowed a student-athlete to play who was ineligible due to a recruiting violation. The probation would prevent the team in question from competing for a state championship that year.

The other adopted proposal will ban any coach ruled to have participated in a recruiting violation from coaching at any AHSAA school for one full calendar year.

These two proposals add on to the AHSAA's previously established recruiting restrictions, which prohibit anyone associated with a school from contacting a student and persuading him or her to transfer schools for the main purpose of athletics.

A number of states ban coaches and other school officials from recruiting players for athletic reasons (Florida allows students to be recruited for academic reasons), but the penalties are often much less specific. Often, teams' eligibility "may be" affected by recruiting violations, but most times, the illegally recruited athlete is the one who bears the brunt of the punishment.

Coaches told the Birmingham News that they expected the new Alabama rules to be a deterrent, but most said it'd be tough for the AHSAA to prove when violations occur. Based on what's happened in Florida, they may have a point. Only two of at least 16 written complaints about recruiting filed with the Florida High School Athletic Association resulted in penalties against Palm Beach schools between 2007 and early 2011, according to a report from the Palm Beach Post last year.

The U.S. Supreme Court unanimously ruled in 2007 that state athletic associations could restrict coaches from recruiting students without violating coaches' First Amendment free-speech rights.

One proposal that couldn't find much support with the AHSAA legislative council would have removed eligibility restrictions for student-athletes, effectively making them always eligible. It was voted down unanimously.

Currently, to be eligible for AHSAA athletics, high school students must pass a minimum of six "units of work" during their previous two semesters and can't turn 19 before Aug. 1 of the current school year.

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