The Arizona transfer rules may not be toothless by definition, but general apathy toward enforcing the bylaws has turned high school sports into a free-for-all.
For years, student-athletes have made a mockery of the guidelines, skipping from school to school on a whim.
The ‘wink-wink’ culture of letting kids move freely within the district — yes, Chandler and Scottsdale, I’m looking at you — has led to hurt feelings, long-held grudges and general pessimism.
Basketball players have brought over a “me-first” club ball philosophy, switching schools for a better shot at playing time, exposure or victories.
The transfer bylaws may have some validity on paper, but this self-policing policy is forever doomed to fail because of the sliding scale of morality across the state.
What’s needed is an overhaul, a blanket rule that leaves no wiggle room, and we may be getting it.
At the Arizona Interscholastic Association’s monthly board meeting on Monday, executive director Harold Slemmer brought up for discussion an Ohio mandate that forces transfers to sit out for one year if they move within a 50-mile radius of their previous domicile.
If a similar proposal passes in Arizona, it will greatly slow athletic-related transfers and regulate a system that badly needs uniformity.
Would it stop everyone? No. If an athlete or parent wants to transfer and be eligible badly enough, a move from the East Valley to Tucson could still happen. But that type of decision would uproot a family and force myriad logistical headaches — new job, new surroundings, new city — in exchange for the ability to stay eligible.
Others would simply sit out and then re-join the action the next year.
But no senior would be able to quickly transfer schools and have a major impact, something commonplace right now.
This rule would completely end the intra-city criss-crossing and the ability for powerhouse programs to quickly plug roster holes with nearby players.
The Chaparral football team has added elite talents Spencer Stone, Deveron Carr, Taylor Lewan, Danny Trittler, Davonte Neal, Jarvis Lewis, Lucas Petrullo and Dylan Cozens via transfer since 2007.
If this rule had been in place, only Cozens would have been eligible his first year, because he didn’t play football as a junior at Desert Mountain.
There is a drawback, or course. When kids transfer for non-athletic reasons (i.e. Mom or Dad gets a new job and the family moves) they would be penalized by this rule and be forced to sit out a year. For the seniors, especially, it would be a tough pill to swallow.
At this point, though, something must be done. Even though some kids would be affected, it would give everyone a much better chance at advancing deeper into state tournaments if certain programs stop stacking their decks.
The proposal is in the beginning stages, so here are two suggestions:
• Be liberal in the appeals process. If Johnny Shortstop is 5-foot-3 and hit .285 last season, he’s probably not moving for athletic reasons. If a family can show the move was for legitimate reasons, let the kid play. Sometimes common sense isn’t used enough.
• Let the transfer play junior varsity. Every star transfer immediately makes an impact on varsity. These players will not want to play a season on JV, and will likely stay at their original schools. For the kids who move for non-athletic reasons, don’t force them to sit out entirely. Junior varsity is much lower stakes, but it still gives the athlete the ability to compete in a game atmosphere.
The current rules in place to curb transfers are not getting the job done. Circumventing the eligibility concerns is a piece of cake and it’s contributed to a great divide between the haves and the have nots in every sport.
Good coaches and programs are going to have the upper hand, but the current transfer rules supplement them with an ace up the sleeve.
It’s time for a big change, and it may be coming.