(Editor’s note: This is the first in a four-part series that takes a look into the proposed 50-mile transfer rule).
The phrase “50-mile rule” has become shorthand for the legislation written to curb athletic-related transfers in Arizona.
It is that specific distance, though, which is one of the hottest debates.
A vast majority of coaches and administrators seem to be on the same page regarding a need to slow down the yearly exodus of athletes from one school to another. The initial proposal by the Arizona Interscholastic Association (AIA) discussed an Ohio mandate that forces transfers to sit out for one year if they move within a 50-mile radius of their previous domicile.
Some are just fine with the number. Others think it’s too small. Others think it’s too large.
“There needs to be some rule because the current system isn’t working,” Saguaro athletic director Bob LaRue said in an email.
So let’s break it down.
How about a vote for the whole state? There is some validity to that. A statewide ban would make life simple for the AIA. If you transfer, you have to sit out. No loopholes, no circumvention.
Because you just know there’s going to be that family that moves to Flagstaff for a couple months in the summer and then returns to the East Valley, contending that the distance moved is more than 50 miles.
“I wish it would just be the whole state,” Campo Verde football coach Max Ragsdale said. “I hate transfers. I think you should play at your school, period.”
Then again, that legislation would force every transfer student in Arizona to sit out a year, and it would also clog the appeals process with a vast array of hearings.
Well then, is the original number of 50 correct?
Nearly all of the recent high-profile transfers would have fit under this umbrella. Davonte Neal’s move from Cesar Chavez to Chaparral didn’t eclipse 50 miles. Neither did Jarvis Lewis’ move from Glendale Raymond Kellis to the Firebirds. Jordan Morgan’s move from Valley Christian to Blue Ridge is one of the few that would have been out of this realm.
No one could cross the battle lines of the Ahwatukee Bowl. Think of how many athletes went from one school to the other. The impact varied, but the decision to change colors always came with a raised eyebrow.
That could all go away.
“I think 50 miles is a good distance,” Scottsdale Christian athletic director Bob Fredericks said in an email. “It should minimize athletically motivated transfers.”
Higley football coach Eddy Zubey agreed 50 miles seems like a good number because it encompasses the whole Valley.
However, Dobson girls basketball coach Tyler Dumas thinks it’s too much.
“For the Valley, the metro area, I think it’s too big of a number,” he said. “Coming from Kansas, that number might be good because towns are 20-30 miles away. You can get in the car and drive. Here, 25 miles will be an hour drive.
“You can have a kid that perhaps lives in an apartment or house and they have to move. They’re not going to be able to hop on a bus” for a school more than 50 miles away.
Hamilton football coach Steve Belles also believes the 50-mile mark is overkill.
“I sure would not want to drive my child 50 miles to school every day,” Belles said in an email. “So I guess I would have to have my daughter sit out a year for sports because (Dad) got a new job.”
Belles proposes 15 miles, which would be enough to stop the transfers within most districts but not hurt the kids moving for legitimate reasons.
But then, that’s not much of a deterrent to athletes looking for a powerhouse program, for they are spread out evenly across the East Valley.
To recap, banning transfers across the whole state could work, or maybe not. Fifty miles is either just right or too much. Somewhere between 15-25 miles sounds most realistic, but it may not be enough to stop the movement.
Coaches and administrators are ready for a change to the transfer rules.
Ironing out the details is the hard part.
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