Roger Blake. (Todd Shurtleff )
There's a perception that illegal recruiting is rampant in high school sports.
So how come in the latest summary report issued by the California Interscholastic Federation through March, among nearly 800,000 athletes who compete statewide, only 84 were declared ineligible because of pre-enrollment contact or undue influence?
That means either the perception is wrong or no one is catching the cheaters.
I believe the latter is true.
Even Roger Blake, the CIF's executive director, admits the numbers are misleading.
"It would be naive for anybody to believe it's not going on," he said of recruiting.
Proof is needed to declare an athlete ineligible or to punish a school or coach for recruiting violations, but the 10 section commissioners don't have an enforcement division like the NCAA has to investigate allegations. They rely mostly on the responsibility of schools to report violations.
One intriguing new item in the 2013-14 CIF budget is $25,000 to be used by the commissioners if they need investigative assistance.
The CIF has saved money this year in its legal bills and seen a drop in expenses for hardship waiver requests after the membership's decision to revise its transfer rules and put in a monthlong sit-out period for students who transfer without moving.
"The sit-out period is accomplishing what we envisioned it would, but it's only one year," Blake said. "We'll see if it's a trend."
Transfers are up slightly around the state, with nearly 14,000 transfers compared to 12,270 all of last year. Commissioners are supposedly able to spend less time on hardship waiver decisions and more time on making sure individual schools are not engaging in the building of all-star teams.
I remember Southern Section Commissioner Rob Wigod promising to intervene if an unusual number of transfers showed up at a particular program. We'll see if that comes to pass.
His spokesman, Thom Simmons, said in an email that "The CIF Southern Section office continues to try and be as proactive as it can on the issue of undue influence, including the forming of a committee to work on ways to continue to improve in all areas of the organization."
I'm not convinced the sit-out period is doing anything other than cutting down on hardship waivers. It sure isn't deterring transfers. Elite players are still transferring and gaining eligibility immediately by moving. And if they don't move, sitting out a month is no big deal.
The sport of basketball, in particular, continues to be laughable when it comes to how parents and schools are manipulating the system of rules and regulations.
We're entering the transfer season for basketball, and those schools that need a player to keep their championship banners coming will always see a transfer show up.
It's all legal or maybe not. It's very hard to catch the cheaters unless someone is willing to squeal. Otherwise, it's pure speculation and innuendo, and no one is going to declare someone ineligible without supporting evidence.
My belief is most of the movement is a result of parents and players engaging in contact and recruitment, and catching them in the act is very difficult. They've grown up in a youth system where it's OK to build all-star teams.
So get your pencils and erasers ready. Rosters are about to undergo changes, because in California, transferring has been made easy and catching cheaters is rare.