AIA’s proposal to slow prep transfers… just git ‘er done!

Finally, there’s an issue that has found common ground among high school administrators, coaches – and even the governing body for prep sports in Arizona, which is all too often at odds with those they govern.

They all want to do something to stem the tide of students switching schools just to find a sports program more to their liking – or, more often, that of their parents.

The latest idea might at least slow it down a little.  But it’s caught up in the “let’s talk about it some more” phase of development.

The Arizona Interscholastic Association is considering a new wrinkle in the playbook that would put a distance qualifier on the rule requiring an athlete to sit out a year following a transfer to a new school.

That stipulation, which could be voted on at the September meeting of the AIA Legislative Council, is still in the discussion phase – not to decide whether it’s needed, but to decide what the distance needs to be.

Consideration has apparently been given to anything from 10 or 15 miles to the entire state.  Something in the area of a 50-mile radius seems to be where the needle is pointing right now.

This issue of high school athletes switching schools in search of a sports program that will provide them a better chance of playing, or playing at a higher level, is nothing new.  It’s most prevalent in the ‘major’ sports, football and basketball.

But it has become somewhat of an epidemic in recent years, frustrating those coaches that lose a quality athlete while they’re trying to improve their own program.  According to an AIA spokesman, the organization is fielding calls about transfer eligibility on a daily basis.

And, hopefully, these guys have better things to do with their time.

Arizona certainly isn’t the only state faced with the problem.  Each state generally finds its own solution.  The AIA says it is using an idea being tested in Ohio.

But other states are testing their own ideas.

West Virginia is keeping it simple.  Their high school sports governing body just passed a new transfer rule that says every student is allowed one transfer after he/she completes the ninth grade, without penalty.

In Florida, they took another approach.  Legislators there actually passed a law that was designed to make it easier for student-athletes to keep their eligibility when transferring, and put a heavier burden on the schools and coaches to police the activity.

The law, passed in April, takes away much of the power of the Florida High School Athletic Association when it comes to regulating transfers, putting it instead in the hands of the school districts and county government.

And the California association has had enough hassle over transfers and just threw in the towel.  Those in charge in the land of the laid-back have opted for the nuclear option.

The California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) used to have a rule similar to Arizona, requiring the transferring student to sit out a year after the move.  But there were so many transfer requests each year that the organization was reportedly spending almost $3 million on legal fees and liability insurance just over the past three years – not to mention the hours that were being spent reviewing each application for a hardship waiver, as parents tried to run an end-around the rules.

So, the CIF approved a measure in May that enables transferring athletes to be able to compete after sitting out just 30 days, instead of the full year.

They just opened the flood gates for the parents who are using the high school experience as primarily a helping hand to a college athletic scholarship.  Remember when being loyal to your school meant something? Didn’t the Beach Boys even write a song about it?

So now, the California high schools that have the programs with the best facilities and biggest budgets are happy because their ‘recruiting’ efforts just got a lot easier.  But the coaches who have been trying to build solid programs from the ground up at the other schools will suffer, as their best players get lured away before they get to their senior season, the time when they could really help the program become successful.

So, by comparison, the Arizona dilemma seems idyllic by comparison.  All the AIA has to do is come up with a decision on how far away the student has to move before he/she gets outside the penalty box.

However, like most things that are decided by committee, it doesn’t sound like this decision is going to be finalized any time soon.  If it doesn’t get on the September agenda, it would have to wait until the Legislative Council meets again in March – which means it wouldn’t be implemented until some time next summer.

And that appears to be the preference of AIA Executive Director Harold Slemmer.  He told the East Valley Tribune‘s Mark Heller that he would prefer it take effect July 1, 2013, when the AIA begins the next calendar year and most of the transfers will be taking place.

“Let’s give the membership plenty of time to think about it and adjust,” he said in the Trib article, “and not rush anything.”

C’mon, people, let’s just pick a number.  It can’t be that hard.

Hey, in less time than this, California was able to stage a complete train wreck.