The California Interscholastic Federation has spent countless hours and dollars on investigating student-athlete transfers over the years.
Last Friday the federation’s governing board voted to substantially change the transfer rules, making a player eligible to join his or her new team after 30 to 35 days, rather than a full year. The vote passed 114-21 and will take effect on July 1.
The CIF’s hope is that 30 to 35 days is still long enough of a sit-out time to keep athletes from transferring strictly for athletic reasons. It also hopes the new policy will result in fewer legal fees that arise from legal challenges to CIF eligibility rulings since the athlete will not miss the entire season.
Whether the change proves prudent remains to be seen. While relaxing the sit-out rule will diminish the logjam of pending litigation, the new standards may encourage more athletically gifted high school students to switch schools to improve their college scholarship chances. That will mean many student athletes who were counting on starting for their varsity squads will find themselves elbowed out of the way.
Many people believe that players will be willing to risk the first 30 days of a season just to play where they want. The driving force behind athletes transferring usually stems from a lack of opportunity at their current school. Parents seek out athletic scholarships for their kids now more than ever and they might feel one quick transfer will help that cause.
We won’t know for years what effect the new policy has on high school sports. If there are droves of transfers, there could be more kids from outside the school district on the “local team” and competitive equity will likely suffer.
It will also likely turn our schools into breeding grounds for college and professional athletes, which some feel should already be in place. Schools educate students wishing to be engineers, doctors, scientists, and many other professional careers. Some say: “Why not professional athletes?”
If transfers do not increase, then CIF will have achieved its goal of cutting costs and keeping high school sports in the state going strong. It would be a huge win-win for prep sports and its governing body here in California.
Either way, CIF has certainly taken a risk with its new policy. One aspect we all love about high school sports here — kids going out and representing their hometown school —could be in jeopardy.
Steve Dreyer, editor