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Sweeney Measure For SCI Investigation Into High School Sports Association Advances

TRENTON — The Senate Education Committee today released legislation Senate President Stephen M. Sweeney sponsored to direct the State Commission of Investigation (SCI) to open in inquiry into the practices of the state’s largest high school sports association.

The New Jersey State interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) has come under fire in recent years for exorbitant post-season tournament ticket pricing policies, staff salaries and school membership fees. The organization recently threatened to cancel several sports championships to counter decreasing revenues, rather than make internal cuts.

“The NJSIAA’s business practices raise a very serious question as to whether it is operating to the benefit of the state’s student-athletes or its own leadership,” said Sweeney (D-Gloucester/Cumberland/Salem). “This is an investigation whose time is long overdue. The SCI is perfectly suited to dive head-first into the NJSIAA’s operation to ferret out wasteful spending and ensure the taxpayer money they receive is invested in our young athletes, where it belongs.”

The Sweeney measure (ACR-116/SCR-88) — sponsored in the Assembly by Assemblyman John Burzichelli (D-Gloucester/Cumberland/Salem) — would specifically direct the SCI to conduct a comprehensive audit of the NJSIAA’s finances and operations to ensure it is in compliance with both its authorizing legislation and other applicable laws. The investigation must also include an review of the NJSIAA bylaws to ensure they are equitable to all members schools and student-athletes.

“Our high school athletes demand fairness on the playing field,” said Sweeney. “We must demand the same from the NJSIAA off it, as well.”

Burzichelli — whose Assembly version of the resolution was approved in March — thanked Sweeney for his support.

Burzichelli was the sponsor of a 2007 law that recently took effect that bars the NJSIAA from charging more for playoff tickets than it did for tickets during the regular season. The NJSIAA earlier this year attempted to ignore the law.

Burzichelli earlier on Thursday sent letters to the NJSIAA asking it to cease its effort to increase regular season tickets prices and to Education Commissioner Bret Schundler asking him to notify schools to disregard the NJSIAA effort to hike regular season ticket prices.

“The NJSIAA unbelievably continues to wrongly rely on increasing ticket prices to pay for its still-bloated salaries and benefits,” Burzichelli said. “That is unacceptable. The NJSIAA continuously fails to get the point and seemingly won’t stop until it finds some way to jack up prices on hard-working New Jersey families. It’s time somebody took an in-depth look at its finances and operations. I’m confident the SCI will do just that.”

The bill was released 3-1 with one abstention and now is poised for a vote in the full Senate.