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NFHS Sanctioning Meant to Protect Student-Athletes

By Jason Haddix on November 21, 2014 hst Print

In the mid-1930s, there was growing concern surrounding high school basketball teams playing interstate competitions against teams that had players who had graduated. For this and similar reasons, the sanctioning of events was essentially born and the NFHS was in the forefront of the movement.

While the sanctioning process has evolved immensely since its early days, the belief of the NFHS remains steadfast in that schools have an obligation to investigate events in which their teams are participating. In an effort to carry out this inquiry and ensure that the integrity of interscholastic athletics is maintained, the NFHS’s in-depth sanctioning process analyzes every aspect of events, teams and sponsors to determine if the event meets the specific criteria.

“Sanctioning is an approval process through the NFHS for event managers who are planning certain types of athletic events,” said Elliot Hopkins, NFHS director of sports and educational services. “We hold them accountable to ensure the games are played fair, safe and without jeopardizing a player’s eligibility.”

Hopkins said the reasons for sanctioning are numerous, but the overriding theme is the protection of the student-athlete. The review process ensures that the players will compete in a supervised and proper environment as well as play under the NFHS rules, which are to be enforced by state association approved officials. It is also designed to negate any exploitation of the players or jeopardize their amateur status.

“Awards and number of competitions are two hang-ups we see,” Hopkins said. “It comes down to not wanting the event to have items that potentially cause a school or player to violate their respective state association rules. We really try to protect the student-athletes.”

Not all events need to go through the sanctioning process. Typically, normal state-association defined regular- and post-season games are excluded. Following is a list of events that are required to go through the 45-60 day application process.

• Any interstate or international event involving two or more schools, which is co-sponsored by or titled in the name of an organization outside the school community (e.g., a college/university, a theme park, an athletic shoe/apparel company)
• Events in non-bordering states if more than five states are involved
• Events in non-bordering states if more than eight schools are involved
• Any event involving two or more schools that involves a team from a foreign country. The host school should complete the international sanction application. This would include any event(s) that involves international traveling teams that play in multiple games in multiple states. (The exceptions to this rule are Canada and Mexico which are considered “bordering states.”)

Once the decision is made to hold an event, there needs to be a designated event manager and a state association member school to be the host institution. This is designed to have local level accountability. The multi-step online process is to be completed by the event member and starts with an application that will be reviewed by the state association where the event will take place. If approved and payment is received, it then is distributed to the state associations of the invited teams for their approval.

“By the time it gets to the NFHS for approval it is pretty much buttoned up,” Hopkins said. “The state associations do a great job and have the best interest of the student-athletes in mind when reviewing the applications.”

For more information or to begin the sanctioning process for an event, visit www.nfhs.org and select “sanctioning” in the resources tab.