J.T. Gray transferred to Basha over the weekend, and if the Coolidge district so chooses, it can quietly let the issue die.
Hopefully that doesn’t happen.
Coolidge ruffled feathers when it recently accused Hamilton football coach Steve Belles of recruiting its star running back at an offseason camp in March. Bears coach Cayle Ferguson said Gray came up to him that day and said, "Man, Hamilton’s coach just tried to recruit me," which seems to be plenty of ammunition to base a recruiting claim.
But that’s not the way these things are handled on the Arizona high school sports scene. Here, the mentality is, "You win some, you lose some." Athletes transfer all the time, and the schools know full well it’s for athletic reasons, but skirt the issue and sign off on it, hoping to be the benefactor of an incoming move down the road.
Just look at Basha, for instance.
Gray is now with the Bears, and if he’s eligible, adds another threat to an already-dynamic offense and makes the defense much better. Last summer, Basha was on the other end when basketball stars Jaron Hopkins and Torren Jones transferred to Dobson after a coaching change.
It’s the culture, especially in the East Valley, as coaches and administrators — for whatever reason — refuse to take a tough stance on transfers.
Ferguson and the Coolidge administration, though, do not play by that set of rules, and they should be commended for it.
There are steps in place to make a proper accusation of recruiting, which Coolidge has done. This doesn’t look like a case of sour grapes, as Ferguson said his administration sent a letter asking Hamilton to cease contact with Gray months before he withdrew from the school.
This is being handled at the district level, and if both sides stick to their stories — Coolidge claiming Gray was recruited, Hamilton claiming he was not — it will go to the Arizona Interscholastic Association.
In all likelihood, unless Gray or his mother says Belles tried to recruit him, the Huskies’ program won’t be punished. Nobody except Belles and Gray knows for sure what was said on that day — if anything at all — and it’s hard to punish a school on hearsay.
However, that doesn’t mean Coolidge should back off. Ferguson is adamant that Gray told him he was recruited, and he should be fully supported in following this process through its conclusion. The Bears just lost their best player, and since school-jumping doesn’t happen in the area because Coolidge is isolated, they don’t have any interest in following the same ‘wink-wink’ transfer culture that pervades the East Valley.
The district should take this a step further, too.
When Hopkins transferred to Dobson, the AIA never got involved because the 520 transfer form was assumedly signed off by both parties.
If Ferguson thinks Gray transferred to Basha for athletic reasons, he should tell athletic director Patrick McBride to note that on the transfer paperwork. Then, the AIA would have to look and make a determination.
Look, I get why Gray wants to go to Basha. He’s a big-time recruit and would benefit from playing tougher competition.
However, there are rules in place, and Coolidge should not be shunned or looked down upon for fighting for its own interests.
Coaches always talk about the way things used to be, when kids would stay in their own neighborhoods and play alongside friends for the duration of their high school careers. But then, when a star transfers out, they look the other way because it causes too much friction to object.
The code of silence encourages the rampant movement, and if schools banded together to follow the guidelines already in place, the transferring would slow greatly.
Coolidge seems to be on board.
Is anybody else?