Kenny Rice – “NSAC Could Learn From a State High School Association”


This week the Kentucky State High School Athletics Association handed down in essence a death penalty to a tiny school in the eastern part of the Commonwealth. Cordia will not be allowed to play any boys’ basketball games this upcoming season. And the following season while they can resume play they can’t participate in the coveted playoffs.


It was a first offense, but one filled with so many violations of recruitment including, plane tickets, doctored student records, and free housing that the KHSAA had no other recourse after a lengthy investigation. Two coaches have been suspended and more individual sanctions could follow. The school has been fined $26,000, a huge fee for a school of such small size.

Fairly, the players who were not guilty, can transfer and immediately be eligible at another school. After all, these kids only have have four years to play sports and shouldn’t be punished.

Commissioner Julian Tackett called these violations , “the most wanton and blatant disregard for association rules in its 97 year history.” So a clear and strong message was sent to the more than 200 member schools, that cheating will not be tolerated.

The KHSAA has been around since 1917, a non-profit organization established by the schools themselves. They elect board members and agree to adhere to rules voted on by the board with an appeals process as well. It is very public and the actions are addressed regularly in the media and on their website.

Wonder how the Nevada State Athletic Commission would have acted? Especially considering that high school was coached by a very popular former University of Kentucky basketball star. They might all apologize and call him friend and even invite him to join them in regulating future cheaters.

Preposterous to compare a high school situation to a governing body of combat sports? No. Breaking the rules is universal –be it illegal recruiting, or using banned substances–but it is how you deal with it that differs. Kentucky did it right, Nevada did it wrong in a recent attempt at sanctioning rule violators and ones with previous offenses at that.

The NSAC was established in 1941 by the state legislature. It is a public serving body and it’s Mission Statement acknowledges its duty: “administers the state laws and regulations.” This isn’t a private company it is a state agency and that is crucial to note. It is too often overlooked, and the Commission takes advantage with limited transparency.

Some members embarrassingly groveled over Chael Sonnen, who was before them for FIVE banned substances he had used to prepare for a fight. He was called “a friend” by one and asked to assist with other cases down the road. Oh, he was given a two year suspension and no fine but will pay for the testing costs of yet another failed test.

Vitor Belfort failed a drug test in February, what he was using hasn’t been defined by NSAC, and he can fight Chris Weidman for the title because he has a conditional license subject to random drug testing that he will have to pay for.

This isn’t to advocate taking away a man’s livelihood, or flippantly saying inordinate fines are required. Sonnen is incredibly charismatic, a major pay-per-view draw for the UFC. This suspension, not his first, has cost him seven figure paychecks. Maybe that is enough punishment. But the precedent is set, five banned substances equal two years. Six is two and a half? Less than five can’t exceed a year? It certainly could be argued and should be if it happens to another fighter.

Belfort is a TRT user and this recent failed test of unknown nature hasn’t denied him another chance to be a UFC champion and he won’t wait long. Another precedent that a year suspension, when one can fight for a belt, is too long? It again should be argued in the future.

To his credit, relatively new Commissioner Anthony Marnell said of Sonnen, “I think it’s ‘Don’t come back.” He deferred his lifetime ban to the rest of the board’s benevolent issue. Perhaps a good political move so early in his term, and his pro baseball background adds a needed perspective to a board that appears …bored.

The integrity of the sport, any sport, has to be the focus for the fans and participants and given their location, those who might wish to wager without worrying if there is a unfair edge. It is a public commission after all.

Las Vegas and Lexington are 1,691 miles apart. They are vastly different in lifestyle and topography, and over the past two weeks, light years apart in rendering a tough verdict.


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