Members of the Delaware Joint Legislative Oversight and Sunset Committee and General Assembly questioned the DIAA on various high school athletic topics Tuesday afternoon.
The committee chaired by Kyle Evans Gay watched a presentation by DIAA Executive Director Donna Polk and DIAA Board Chairman Dr. Bradley Layfield on DIAA's response to COVID-19, including the anticipated loss of over $400,000 this school year they said is tied to a lack of revenue from reduced crowds under pandemic restrictions.
They then took a series of questions from various members of the committee who hit on several of the key debates in recent months.
State Rep. Sherry Dorsey Walker (3rd-Wilmington) challenged DIAA on the equity of an upcoming vote on a proposed football realignment, and how it pertains to city school Howard, but not mentioning other schools that receive students from her district, including Dickinson, McKean, Newark, and Glasgow.
"My concern is that [Howard's] enrollment won't get any larger, and I don't want them penalized because they are finding success in the athletic realm."
Howard is ranked 8th in the state via the Delaware Association of Athletic Directors proposal that combines enrollment with winning percentages over the past three and five years.
The Wildcats have the second best winning percentage in Delaware in the past three years [Hodgson], and trail only Middletown, Woodbridge, and Friends over the past five years.
DIAA Director Donna Polk acknowledged Howard's dominance in Division 2 is working against them numerically.
"They are actually a victim of their success right now, and they will work to see how everything will play out [Thursday] if there is a vote on that."
13th District State Senator Marie Pinkney queried Layfield on the DIAA transfer policies.
Layfield said many transfer requests go through Polk, and that while there's typically a unchallenged waiver allowed in the first two years as students attempt to find the school that is right for them, both schools ultimately have to get involved to make sure things are as much on the level as possible.
"We've required that the sending and receiving school both sign off that it is not for athletic advantage, but that there is a legitimate reason... As long as we can go through a sound process with a hearing and say that we are confident it is not done for athletic purposes, but that there are legitimate reasons. If a hardship exists, and we are following the spirit and purpose of the rules, and it's not going to be a safety risk, that is what we consider a waiver where there is not an automatic exemption for a transfer."
Pinkney then challenged the DIAA on the decisions rendered by their volleyball, field hockey, and football committees to waive minimum game requirements due to COVID, which changed the brackets in all three tournaments.
Layfield said they tried to be fair to all involved, but fairness can be a relative term.
"What is meant to be in the best interest of students. Obviously, whenever you have a tournament, certain folks are in, and certain folks are out. Folks that are in are very thankful for grace that were shown due to cancellations that were out of the kids control, and those who were left out have concerns that we had a plan that necessarily wasn't followed."
State Senator Nicole Poore (12th-Hockessin/Greenville), who is not on the Sunset Committee, then supplied critical public comment of DIAA's failure to act on a 2018 Senate Concurrent Resolution directing the organization to create regulations allowing coaches to coach athletes out of season.
She cited the DIAA's continued lack of passing a plan out of its Rules and Regulations Committee over two years later.
"This is clearly not a well-designed plan that support coaches, ADs, parents, more specifically students, and completely violates the resolution."
On her list of recommendations to improve the DIAA, she focused on coaching.
"The completion of regulations for out-of-season coaching should be a priority."
The Sunset Committee's recommendations for DIAA will be announced during a Tuesday meeting at 3 p.m.