Jack Roberts has been the executive director of the MHSAA since 1986. (Submitted Photo)

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MHSAA doesn't expect to add tougher transfer rules

Schools must enforce what's on the books, director says

Don’t expect to see tougher transfer rules adopted by the Michigan High School Athletic Association.

Member schools will have to be content with enforcing rules already on the books, the association president said.

“States that have overplayed their hand on transfer rules have lost their transfer rules,” Jack Roberts, who has been the executive director of the MHSAA since 1986, said. “Legislators don’t like over-reaching transfer rules.

“The future is more about retaining the rules we have rather than extending their reach.”

Transfers of athletes, especially those who play high-profile sports like football and basketball, have become hot-button topics in Michigan since schools of choice have become more plentiful.

Students are able to move from a school to one with school-of-choice status regardless of their residence as long as they sit out a semester-long ineligibility period.

Students whose family moves from one district to another can be eligible immediately.

There are multiple schools of thought on transferring, Roberts said.

Some people, the director said, want tougher rules that would make an athlete ineligible for 180 days, a full school year, after transferring; others, he added, think there should be no rules and that parents should be allowed to send their children to any school at any time.

“The school of choice movement, and the notion of lawyers and legislators that students should be able to change schools at any time and any place for any reason, happens to be society’s thinking right now, and we’re running up against that,” Roberts said.

“That’s the way I read the country right now. The best we can hope for is to enforce the rules we have, and that’s what we’re trying to teach our people to do, and to use the tools we have.”

Florida and Utah, Roberts said, were among states where enforcement of transfer rules by governing bodies had unintended consequences.

“The legislature in Florida got upset with transfer rules restraining the movement of people from school to school,” Roberts said. “Essentially, the legislature gutted their rules.

“Florida has essentially no rule at all. You’re eligible wherever you enroll on the first day of the school year, which is not an effective rule at all.

“The Utah High School Activities Association was nearly put out of business by its legislature over its enforcement of the transfer rule and the fact that the legislature wanted that rule rolled back.

“That’s the environment we’re working in right now. Some of my counterparts across the country have lost their jobs over enforcement of transfer rules.”

The MHSAA has felt no pressure from the Michigan legislature regarding its rules, Roberts said.

“They respect our rule,” Roberts said. “But we know we can’t push that envelope too far. We know that we have to be reasonable. And right now, ‘reasonable’ to many people is, ‘Let me go wherever I want to.’

“So we’re trying to find that middle ground between some order and complete chaos we see in some states.”

Some school officials are not taking steps to enforce existing rules, Roberts said.

“We are urging them to use the tools we have,” Roberts said. “We have some tools that unfortunately aren’t being used enough by our school administrators to stop some things, like athletically motivated transfers,” Roberts said.

“It’s teamwork. They need our help and we need their help. They need to report it, and we need to support them as much as we can and find in favor of those situations and impose the 180-day period of ineligibility.”

Transfers should not abuse residency rules in hopes of being eligible immediately after moving, Roberts said.

“The basics are that when you move from one school district to another, in order to be eligible immediately you have to move with the people you lived with previously,” Roberts said.

“You just can’t land at the coach’s residence. There’s no such thing as ‘guardianship’ making someone eligible.”

Last Updated: 4/3/2017 8:15:13 PM EST