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Financial inquiry on IHSA begin today

Marty Hickman has spent more than a month now on the defensive, guarding against what he characterizes as being unfairly targeted by a zealous state legislator searching for more transparency from the IHSA.

In early April, the state House of Representatives narrowly passed a resolution granting State Rep. Linda Chapa La Via, D-Aurora, the authority to oversee hearings into how the IHSA conducts its business. Although Chapa La Via originally zeroed in on how money that stems from exclusive contracts was being used, a Chicago Sun-Times report that pointed to a 21 percent increase in salary, benefits and other compensation for IHSA administrators from 2011-12 to 2012-13 left Chapa La Via with even more concerns.

The pay bump, among other questions, is expected to be discussed at a legislative hearing this morning in Springfield. Hickman, the IHSA's executive director, expects more than 50 school officials, coaches and IHSA board members to attend, supporting a not-for-profit organization that claims to have the best interest of high school athletes at the top of its priority list.

In a statement issued Monday, Hickman said he looks forward to using today's hearing to clear up any misconceptions about the IHSA's operations and processes, adding that the state general assembly has been given misinformation.

Chapa La Via, however, insists she and the supporters of her house resolution are on to something, especially after the Sun-Times published its findings over the weekend.

"There's a lot of crazy stuff going on," Chapa La Via said Monday.

Chapa La Via maintains that the IHSA has been "very standoff-ish" when asked to address concerns about how the not-for-profit organization's nearly $11 million budget is doled out and why more than 800 schools statewide aren't getting more of a financial cut.

The Sun-Times reported that IHSA salaries, benefits and other compensation totaled almost $3.1 million, including $221,368 that was paid to Hickman in 2012, according to the IHSA's 990 tax forms. IHSA officials maintain that Hickman's pay is comparable to others in his position.

When compared to other executive directors of high school associations in seven states – including Wisconsin, Indiana, Michigan, Iowa and Missouri and Ohio – Hickman made more money than four other officials.

Chapa La Via said she had no idea what IHSA administrators made, saying it took reporters to look into the IHSA's 990 tax forms to bring the information to light.

"It's not something as easy as me going to somebody's website," Chapa La Via said, referring to the audit available on the IHSA website, which does not include the organization's salary information.

Throughout the process, Hickman said he believes his organization is adequately transparent and that, until now, no one has questioned the IHSA's practices. Because of its not-for-profit status, the IHSA is not required to make its operations public – part of the reason Chapa La Via said she pushed for Tuesday's hearing.

Marian Central athletic director Drew Potthoff, who has worked with the IHSA for more than 30 years, said today's hearing isn't worth the time. Potthoff will attend the hearing, prepared to defend an organization in which "no one is getting rich" despite six IHSA employees receiving between $112,893 and $134,501 in salary and benefits.

"To be real honest, I think it's a lot to do about nothing," Potthoff said Monday. "I don't know why [Chapa La Via] is all up in arms wanting to know where all the money goes ... and if the IHSA is making more money than it should."

Potthoff, along with Johnsburg football coach Mike Maloney – who originally was scheduled to attend today's hearing – said legislators have more important issues to address than whether the IHSA is being forthcoming enough.

Maloney said he has found there to be a level of trust between the schools that are considered member schools and the IHSA itself. Maloney considers how much Hickman and other top officials are paid is a "business decision" and isn't a topic that should be up for debate.

According to the Sun-Times, the IHSA made $463,799 less on its boys basketball tournament than it did in 2006. In 2013, the tournament made $1.1 million – remaining the IHSA's marquee event. Boys basketball tournament revenues, the Sun-Times reported – totaled just more than $2 million last year – a 17 percent drop from 2009, when revenues were $2.45 million. Between 2006 and the 2013 event, tournament profits fell by 29 percent.

Maloney, who has worked in public education for 10 years, said he doesn't hear much cry for the IHSA to divulge how it operates.

"I don't see a lot of people actively saying, 'What is the IHSA doing with the money?' " Maloney said. "I don't hear that question coming up in conversation."

Chapa La Via said Monday that all she is seeking is information and answers to questions that she and other supporters of her resolution have. Chapa La Via said she's heard from supporters since the Sun-Times stories came out, telling her that she was "barking up the right tree."

Chapa La Via, who said she's not the first lawmaker to question the IHSA's operations, sees it differently.

"It's not barking up any tree – it's about the kids in Illinois. It's about taxpayer's dollars, and taxpayers want accountability," she said. "That's why I'm putting this hearing on."

Top state athletic association executives' pay:

IHSA Executive Director Marty Hickman: $204,840 base, $16,528 health insurance - $221,368

Iowa High School Athletic Association Executive Director Richard Wulkow: $209,244 base, $45,183 added compensation - $254,427

Michigan High School Athletic Association Executive Director John Roberts: $185,278 base, $51,813 added compensation - $237,091

Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association Executive Director Dave Anderson: $149,180 base salary, $60,734 additional compensation - $209,914

Ohio High School Athletic Association Commissioner Dan Ross : $159,294 base, $23,643 added compensation - 182,937

Indiana High School Athletic Association Commissioner Bobby Cox: $161,022 base, $3,086 added compensation - $164,108

Missouri State High School Activities Association Executive Director Kerwin Urhahn: $152,613 base, $27,036 added compensation - $179,649

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