Disabato: IHSA student-athlete transfer bylaw gets some teeth
By Pat Disabato firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @disabato August 7, 2013 8:18PM
IHSA executive director Marty Hickman. | Sun-Times Media photo
IHSA Bylaw 3.043.3
In the event the student transfers attendance from any high school to any other high school, and the transfer is not in conjunction with a change in residence by both the student and his or her parents, custodial parent, surviving parent or guardian, to a residence outside the boundaries of the public school district attendance area the family originally resided in, the Executive Director then grants eligibility based on documentation that the transfer was necessitated by one or more of the following: 1. Change in family’s financial position; 2. Extenuating circumstances documented by the sending school’s principal or official representative.
Updated: September 9, 2013 2:50PM
I like to refer to the summer months as the “high school free-agency period.”
Appropriate, considering it’s most often the time when student-athletes, from the star-in-the-making to the bench-warmer, transfer high schools. In most cases, the sole reason for the transfer is athletics, be it to play for a more prestigious program, seek more playing time or play on a nicer baseball field.
What? You thought the dozens of transfers in recent years were to pursue a better education?
Of course, families don’t readily admit their child’s transfer is athletically motivated. If they did, the IHSA, in most cases, wouldn’t allow it.
As long as the school the child was transferring from signed off on the transfer, in most instances, the IHSA approved.
Transferring schools, however, has become a whole lot tougher since June 1. That’s when the IHSA’s new bylaw, 3.043.3, kicked in and changed the transfer rules — in my estimation, mostly for the better.
Here’s the deal: Unless the family of a student-athlete can prove a recent change in financial position, or prove extenuating circumstances documented by the sending school’s principal or official representative, any student-athlete transferring schools will have to sit out one year of sports.
“The main thing, without a move (change in residence), there are not any free transfers,” IHSA executive director Marty Hickman said. “There are two provisions. One, there has to be a change in the family’s financial position — they have to prove they can no longer afford to attend a private school.
“The other way a transfer will be granted is if there are extenuating circumstances. For example, if the kid is being bullied at school. The school the kid is transferring from would have to agree that he or she was indeed being bullied and therefore agrees that a transfer is best for the child. At this point, most of what we’re seeing is families claiming financial hardship.”
The key word in that last sentence is “claiming.” Mom and Dad can “claim” financial hardship all they want. The proof, however, will be in the pudding.
The IHSA wants to see recent pay stubs and tax returns to support a family’s claim. Even if a parent claims he or she recently lost his or her job, the IHSA requests an unemployment document.
The new bylaw might not prevent every sports-motivated transfer from occurring, but it’s certainly going to slow the merry-go-round.
“It really should slow down some of the transfers we’ve seen in the past,” Hickman said. “There are dozens of examples of student-athletes transferring, not because they didn’t like the school or the academics, but they left because of athletics. Time after time, schools took advantage of this. We’ll never have a system that’s perfect. But I like this new rule.”
I have two concerns with the new bylaw. One is the definition of financial hardship. Tuition at a private high school is approximately $10,000 a school year. How much financial hardship does a family of a private school student-athlete have to incur before the IHSA approves the transfer?
“A $5,000 hit would probably fall short, but I wouldn’t put a dollar figure on it,” Hickman said.
Second, I believe a student-athlete should be allowed to transfer, without any eligibility restrictions, in the summer after his freshman year. Kids make mistakes. They might think a school is the right fit, but find out during their freshman year it’s not. They should be allowed to seek a better fit without punishment.
“That’s a good point,” Mount Carmel football coach Frank Lenti said. “If it’s a bad situation at the end of ninth grade, a family should be able to evaluate the situation and know whether you like the school or not. Otherwise, the new rule should have a positive effect.”
The biggest impact will be felt by families of student-athletes transferring from a private high school to their home public high school. Until June 1, it was a legal transfer.
That’s not so under the new bylaw. That’s why a handful of local student-athletes transferred to their home public school in April and May of this past school year; in essence, they were beating the clock.
Homewood-Flossmoor baseball coach Todd Sippel doesn’t like how the new rule punishes kids who want to transfer to their home public school from a private school.
“I don’t like kids bouncing all around, either,” Sippel said. “But if a kid is at a Catholic school and he’s not having a positive experience, no matter what year he or she is in, why shouldn’t they be able to transfer to their home public school? I don’t like it.”
Basically, the new rule will demand families do their homework when selecting a school. A mistake, without financial hardship or extenuating circumstances, will be met with a lost year of eligibility.
What parents and student-athletes must understand is high school sports isn’t travel or club ball. When a parent becomes disenchanted with their child’s club or travel experience, they either switch teams or start their own — which is why travel ball is a cesspool of mediocrity and disloyalty.
“I think the new rule is great,” St. Rita athletic director Mike Zunica said. “With this generation of kids, when things aren’t going their way, they want to quit. I think it would be fair to allow kids to transfer after their freshman year. But that’s it. After that, kids should find a way to make it work.”