Under new transfer rule, integrity wins

Under new transfer rule, integrity wins


Under new transfer rule, integrity wins


Harold Slemmer is old school when it comes to high school sports.

“I think it should be about community and the kids you grew up with,” said Slemmer, the executive director of the Arizona Interscholastic Association. “But I see that deteriorating every year.”

That may be about to change. On Tuesday, the AIA’s executive board is expected to approve a proposal that would require student-athletes to sit out a year if they transfer to a school within a 25-mile radius.

The proposal will then go to the AIA’s legislative council, which would vote on the measure during its March 1 meeting. If it passes, as Slemmer expects, it will take effect on July 1.

“It’s too bad we have so much of this going on that we might have to do this,” Slemmer said.

Originally, the AIA contemplated the one-year ineligibility for athletes who transferred to a school within 50 miles. The distance was based on similar legislation adopted by the Ohio Athletic High School Association. But after hearing from representatives from Division I schools that the 50-mile radius was too punitive, the AIA has tentatively decided on the 25-mile ban.

“I think that’s more than adequate,” Slemmer said. “What we think is it’s going to discourage kids from just going down the street to another school because they’re mad at the coach.”

I’ll be honest: When the AIA first broached the transfer rule last year, I was against it. I was concerned that student-athletes who moved for legitimate reasons — a parent gets a new job, a divorce, etc. — would be unfairly penalized.

But I’ve changed my mind.

Too many parents have warped the ideal of high school sports by moving their kids from one school to another purely for athletic reasons: Their son wasn’t getting enough playing time; he didn’t get along with the coach; college recruiters won’t notice him if his team goes 3-8.

(Apparently, the Internet doesn’t exist at schools with struggling football programs).

The coach and teammates they abandoned? Innocent casualties. The program that suffered because of their departure? Who cares? And never mind the fact their son might not even play at the new school because the program already has so many good players.

Reason and doing the right thing is so 1950.

Understand something: The proposed legislation won’t turn back the clock to a time when neighborhood schools were as competitive as the powerhouse programs. Families will take advantage of open enrollment — which is a state law — and have their children attend out-of-boundary schools as freshmen.

(Schools like Chandler Hamilton and Scottsdale Chaparral don’t have to recruit, by the way. Parents are showing up on the schools’ doorstep because, goodness, why should their son have to suffer the indignity of playing for Mesa High or Scottsdale Coronado)?

But it might slow to a trickle the number of student-athletes who transfer simply because they don’t like the situation they’re in.

The legislation also will close the loophole that allows student-athletes to be immediately eligible with a change of domicile. Slemmer said it was easy for families living in apartments to pack up and move, and that affluent families were purchasing second homes in a new school district while never selling their old home.

“There were so many kids moving from school to school, it was hard for administrators to discern what was going on,” Slemmer said.

The AIA will allow receiving schools to appeal the status of a transferring student-athlete. That’s vital; athletes who switch schools for legitimate reasons should be allowed to play immediately. If the AIA fails in that regard, it will have done more damage than good with the transfer rule.

“If a parent loses their home in the Dobson attendance zone and decides to transfer to an apartment complex in the Chandler district, that will be a legitimate issue we’ll have to deal with differently than the kid who gets upset at the Dobson coach and goes down the street to Chandler Hamilton,” Slemmer said.

“We’ll hear from the (school that loses the athlete), too. If they tell us mom and dad came in complaining about playing time or that he deserves to be the starting quarterback, the committee will consider that.”

It’s sad that it’s come to this, the AIA having to adopt legislation that discourages student-athletes from transferring. But selfishness has a price.

And the integrity of high school sports deserves a chance.

Reach Bordow at scott.bordow!@arizonarepublic.com or 602-444-7996. Follow him on Twitter at Twitter.com/sBordow


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