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Southern Section OKs Curb on Athletic Transfers

Meetings: Council approves proposal that will prohibit students who change schools without moving from participating in varsity sports for one year, starting in 2003-04.


The Southern Section council on Thursday approved one momentous transfer proposal and paved the way for another that collectively could place a stranglehold on transfers for athletic purposes.

The section council, meeting in Long Beach, overwhelmingly adopted a proposal that will prohibit students who transfer without moving from participating in varsity sports for one year, beginning with the 2003-04 school year. Students who transfer will be eligible to compete at levels below varsity or in sports they haven't previously played in high school.

The council also instructed its representatives on the California Interscholastic Federation's federated council to vote in favor of a state proposal that would require school officials to certify that no one connected with their booster clubs or athletic programs had contact with transfers. The state proposal, which would go into effect on a two-year trial basis starting with the 2002-03 school year, faces a vote May 3.

Southern Section Commissioner Jim Staunton said the section's proposal should eradicate powerhouse athletic programs built by an influx of out-of-district transfers who utilized open enrollment, the state law that allows parents to choose what school their children attend.

"Principals said they would like to get back to one community pitting their kids against another community and saying, 'We can beat you,'" Staunton said.

Pat Murphy, the Santa Ana Mater Dei High principal who represents the Serra League, was one of 11 council members who voted against the restrictions on open-enrollment transfers. Murphy said a majority of the principals in his four-team league believed that "the options of parents were being taken away under the new rule."

Murphy said the perception that Mater Dei's teams are stacked with transfers is unfounded. Under open enrollment, Murphy said, three times as many athletes have transferred out of Mater Dei as have transferred in, mainly because of tuition costs.

Murphy also voted against the statewide proposal, which would require principals to sign a pre-enrollment contact form, because he said it would put them on the line for things they "realistically have no control over," such as contact by boosters.

"What is the definition of a booster?" Murphy asked. "For example, parents are at a cocktail party and so-and-so says, 'I know your son goes to XYZ Catholic school and it's a wonderful school.' Then that kid ends up transferring. Is that contact or not?"

Staunton said Murphy was being overly cautious.

"The reality will be that [principals will] have a pretty good handle on it, and if they have any questions they can call us and we'll advise them on it," he said. "We don't want to be out there declaring teams ineligible willy-nilly because a parent talked to a student when he was in second grade."

Staunton acknowledged that the transfer restrictions could have unfortunate consequences, such as a dramatic rise in the number of frivolous hardship waiver appeals. That's why he is proposing to strengthen the wording on hardship forms to indicate that they are acceptable only under an "unforeseeable, unavoidable, uncorrectable act, condition or event that is non-athletic in nature."

Staunton is considering the implementation of a $75 administrative fee to defray the costs of hearings to handle hardship appeals. The fee would be paid by the school a prospective athlete hoped to attend and would be reimbursed if the athlete won his or her appeal.

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