Leaders of the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association failed to respond aggressively enough to the organization’s crumbling finances for several years prior to the pandemic, placing at risk interscholastic programs the agency governs for 374 secondary schools, according to a report released Thursday by the House Committee on Post Audit and Oversight.
The fiscal damage, detailed in a Globe report in 2019, was the worst in the MIAA’s history.
“The MIAA Board of Directors should have been much more focused in advocating, developing, and approving a much-needed financial rescue package,” the report states.
A nearly year-long review by the House Post Audit Bureau concluded that “the MIAA’s lack of urgency regarding the deteriorating financial situation is puzzling.”
The MIAA told the oversight bureau it has since found steadier financial footing in part through corporate sponsorships, most notably a 10-year partnership in 2021 with TPG, a sports marketing company that guaranteed the organization $100,000 up front and annual income of at least $450,000 after the first year.
The MIAA also received about $875,000 in pandemic-related government loans, of which $700,000 has been forgiven, according to the report.
Presiding over the agency’s financial woes, with the board of directors, was former longtime executive director William N. Gaine Jr., who retired in 2021, just as the audit was launched. Gaine’s successor, Robert Baldwin, told the House panel “he intends to correct the MIAA financial situation,” the report states.
Baldwin said in an interview that the report provides more than enough evidence to support his efforts to improve the organization’s finances and enhance its transparency.
“I look at this as a positive that allows us to move forward,” Baldwin said.
An MIAA auditor told the oversight bureau during Gaine’s tenure that the organization is in a “strong financial position” with sufficient working capital, more than was available five years ago.
However, the oversight panel, citing an in-house MIAA survey, said the organization’s member schools share a less rosy view of its finances, “finding them unclear rather than transparent.”
In addition, “the MIAA’s official website is overly complicated, difficult to understand, and not responsive to users,” the report states. “The website is not ‘transparent’ as understood in the usual definition of that word.”
The MIAA told the bureau a new website is under construction.
The report made numerous recommendations aimed at improving the MIAA’s financial transparency. They include restoring all financial documents to the MIAA website, publishing on the site all tournament revenues and expenses, and submitting a letter annually about the organization’s fiscal condition for five years, beginning in 2023, to House committees, the state auditor, and the Massachusetts Association of School Committees.
The House committee issued a statement from Speaker Ronald J. Mariano, saying the MIAA “has had longstanding issues which impact public school athletics in the Commonwealth and our students.”
Mariano said he hopes the recommendations “serve the MIAA with a path forward on operations.”
Representative John J. Mahoney, a Worcester Democrat who chairs the Committee on Post Audit and Oversight, said the report “is about ensuring Massachusetts high school student athletes have the best possible experience.”
Mahoney said, “We believe that the report is a fair and honest assessment of the MIAA. We have had several conversations with them, and are encouraged by their response.”
Bob Hohler can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.