Transfer-rule defeat a setback for AZ high school sports

Remember what Harold Slemmer told an East Valley Tribune reporter back in July when the Trib posted an article about the state’s coaches and athletic directors trying to make a decision about putting a distance qualifier on the AIA’s transfer rule for high school athletes?

“Let’s give the membership plenty of time to think about it and adjust,” was the suggestion offered by the executive director of the Arizona Interscholastic Association.

He said he wasn’t concerned about getting the issue on the agenda for the September meeting, but would be fine with the Legislative Council taking it up in the March meeting, giving the coaches and school administrators time to consider the various options to an amendment to the transfer rule, which currently requires an athlete to sit out a year following a transfer to a new school.  Hardship cases  would be the only exception.

Looks like he may have given them too much time.  Apparently, a proposal to tack a mileage requirement onto the transfer rule was kicked around so much at Friday’s meeting that it got voted down by the 45 administrators, athletic directors, and board members that comprise the Legislative Council.  Actually, there were just 39 members at the meeting – and they came up one vote shy of the necessary two-thirds approval needed to pass it.

They probably had too much time at the meeting as well.  It’s called ‘over-thinking’.

After considerable discussion over the first part of the school year among coaches and ADs, as options for the mileage amendment ranged from 10 miles to 100 or more, it was generally expected that a proposal for a 25-mile radius would have the best chance of passing.

But when it was brought up at the meeting, the 25-mile proposal couldn’t get any traction.  So then the discussion moved to 50 miles, and that idea got past the proposal stage to a final vote – but the 25 votes that were cast in favor of the measure were one shy of getting the job done.

Slemmer doesn’t get a vote on the council.  Nor does his second-in-command, Chuck Schmidt.  They did their job as the executive board approved the measure, which was then handed over to the Legislative Council for its consideration.

But it’s going to be easy to throw a blanket of blame over the AIA generally and chalk this one up as just another misstep by the state’s governing body, which is often at odds with both coaches and administrators.

This time perhaps it would have been better to have far fewer cooks in the kitchen, so to speak.  The idea of being able to get 39 people to agree on something this important was probably flawed from the get-go.

Some sort of action was critically needed since the issue of transfers, which shift the balance of power to a select group of schools and weaken others further, has become epidemic in recent years.  Last summer, when the idea of including a mileage restriction was first hatched, the AIA admitted it was fielding calls about transfer eligibility on almost a daily basis.

We ran an article on Phxfan back in July that addressed the issue and included some of the really tangled transfer problems that high school governing organizations are faced with in other states – and the complicated solutions being proposed to solve them.

But Arizona’s step in that direction was simple.  A baby step almost.

If the Legislaltive Council members, in all their wisdom, had just picked a distance and voted it in, they would have got the ball rolling.  If the number they picked didn’t work out, then just ratify the amendment on down the road.

At least they would have shown they were serious about leveling the playing field for those schools around the state being drained of their best talent and the ability to fairly compete.

Why was that so difficult to understand for people who are intelligent enough to be educators?