AIA’s failure to toughen transfer rules imperils prep sports

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                </div>  High School sports in Arizona just took another step closer to resembling how things operate at the college level by giving the green light to an increased proliferation of […]<!-- AddThis Sharing Buttons below -->
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High School sports in Arizona just took another step closer to resembling how things operate at the college level by giving the green light to an increased proliferation of transfers among schools.

And that’s a crying shame.

The state’s governing body for prep sports, the Arizona Interscholastic Association (AIA), had a chance to rein in the abuses by parents that want to move their child to a school that offers a better athletic program, thereby increasing the disparity between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’.  The rich get richer (in talent) and the less-advantaged become even more so.

And that’s an embarrassment.

At the March 6 meeting, the AIA legislative council had its second opportunity in the last few years to pass an amendment to the tranfer rule, which currently requires an athlete to sit out a year following a move to a new school.  The objective, of course, is to discourage players from tranferring solely because of the better sports offering at the new school.  There are exceptions that can be allowed for families with legitimate reasons, but those require the submission of a hardship appeal.

So the council considered the option of tacking on a mileage requirement to the rule that would limit transfer distances.  There were 39 members of the 45-member legislative council – made up of school administrators, athletic directors, and board members – present that day in March of 2013 when the proposal got 25 votes.  That was just one shy of the two-thirds majority that was needed.

But now, even that support has apparently waned.  This time the proposal for a tougher transfer policy got just seven votes.

The apparent reason?  It would be too much hassle to try to police the new rules.

Back in 2013, the AIA said it was fielding calls on almost a daily basis from parents and school administrators with eligibility questions.  That was the primary motivator to get a tougher policy in place.

So now they foresee even more work for themselves if a mileage amendment is added to the rule.  The council felt there would be a sudden rash of appeals – and the legal complications that would accompany them.

A recent lawsuit may have provided the final straw in that regard.  The council found a couple of top basketball players ineligible to play for Gilbert Christian because of a contact their coach had with them during summer ball while they were still at other schools, a recruiting violation.  The parents lawyered up and a court overturned the AIA ruling.

The players returned to the team.  It won a state title.  And the losers in that mess were two Tucson schools and the AIA, which had invested countless hours hearing the appeal and then defending their decision in court.

It’s not hard to see how that discourages an honest effort to do the right thing and try to enforce the rules that make high school sports what they are.  It creates a feeling of helplessness.  But what’s the alternative… let the kids roam free to be able to pick a new school that has a better sports team?

And that takes the issue beyond collegiate athletics and makes a direct comparison to professional sports.

Now the high school players are becoming free agents.  Sigh.