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Participation numbers increasing in most Kentucky high school sports, except football, KHSAA says

By Tom Latek
Kentucky Today

The leader of the Kentucky High School Athletics Association says student participation is increasing in most boys and girls sports with football being the exception.

KHSAA Commissioner Julian Tackett testified before the General Assembly’s Interim Joint Education Committee last week.

“Last year 57,000 boys were on rosters, along with 48,000 girls,” he told lawmakers. “That’s pretty impactful given our student population at the high school level. So, we realize the pressure/importance of what we do and, the few of us that are there to do it, take that very, very seriously.”

KHSAA Commissioner Julian Tackett says participation numbers for high school sports are trending well. (Photo by Tom Latek, Kentucky Today)

Tackett said they now conduct 54 championships, including the recent addition of two in e-sports championships. “Some of you in this room probably never thought we’d be talking about an e-sports championship, but we have to evolve.”

As for some other numbers, “12,000 coaches are under our jurisdiction, in terms of qualifications and things they have to do, 4,000 officials and, as of Thursday, if things go well, we will go from 280 to 281 schools.”

The KHSAA Board of Control meets Thursday and Tackett says he expects they will accept the membership application from a new private school in Jefferson County.

“We’re the best dropout prevention you have,” Tackett told the education panel. “With due respect to every other thing that comes before you, there are kids who only stay in school because they have to meet certain standards for athletics. So, we take that very seriously.”

Overall, he said student participation is steady or increasing, with track and field making a strong comeback, but football is declining. “We had 13,000 last year, but we have lost a couple hundred each year over the past several years” in football.

Tackett also testified they are one of the 118-quasi-governmental agencies seriously affected by a near doubling of their pension costs, effective July 1. “We are in the Kentucky Employees Retirement System, and we are definitely one of those groups that don’t have enough money to buy-out of the system,” he said.

Tackett noted they get no state funding, relying on annual dues from schools, state championship rounds (primarily football and basketball), and corporate sponsorships.

Every school has an equal voice in KHSAA matters, he said, whether it’s 20-student Holy Family in Ashland or Lexington Lafayette, with nearly 2,500 students.

Some of the topics that the KHSAA will be addressing in the near future include working with lawmakers to sponsor revisions to the state law regarding assaults on officials, as well as monitoring such topics as transgender and cross-gender participation, new sports, sports safety concerns and compliance.

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