The Arizona Interscholastic Association is expected to approve the athletic eligibility of Gulf Coast evacuees living in Arizona as early as this week, pending approval today by the AIA executive board.
AIA executive director Harold Slemmer said he doesn’t expect much resistance to a plan that would minimize AIA transfer regulations and fast track the eligibility approval process for students displaced by Hurricane Katrina.
Because many of the necessary documents, such as birth certificates and school transcripts, might not be available to students who were forced to evacuate, Slemmer said the displaced students simply would be required to provide a signed affidavit instead.
"There’s an affidavit they would fill out with a guardian or whoever they’re living with, indicating age, semester in school, and conditions in which they’re living here," Slemmer said, adding that, pending board approval, he expects forms and instructions to be available Thursday morning on the AIA Web site.
"If conditions are due to Hurricane Katrina, that will allow them to have other transfer rules waved."
Slemmer said the students would be allowed to participate in AIA-sanctioned athletic events for as long as they choose, adding that after one year the students would retain normal status as Arizona residents.
"After that, they’d be treated as any other Arizona resident and the same transfer rules apply."
Slemmer said he had received calls from close to a dozen schools anticipating the process.
Lynn Winsor, athletic director at Phoenix Xavier, said one female student from New Orleans began classes Monday.
Winsor said she is unsure if the student, who was slated to play tennis at her previous high school, was interested in playing tennis for Xavier.
"We don’t start tennis for another semester, so we have plenty of time to figure this out," Winsor said, noting that many other schools, with fall sports already under way, have the need to complete the approval process as soon as possible.
Winsor, among the 185 participants at the Arizona Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association conference in Prescott this week, said Slemmer discussed with the conference participants — primarily high school athletic directors — plans to allow displaced students to participate.
"They handed out the form, which he said the board will look at and revise," Winsor said. "It was only a onepage form, so it’s not going to be a big investigation. Some of these kids lost everything. Everything is gone from their home. Trying to prove how old they are isn’t easy.
"All of us want to be hospitable and warm in our welcome," Winsor added. "They certainly should have an opportunity to participate. It would help them feel more welcome to the school community to participate in athletics as well."