For years Arizona high school athletes have been receiving odd gifts for Christmas — like a three-month apartment lease in a different high school boundary.
It allows them to switch schools, taking advantage of a loophole in the transfer rules, and begin a new life with a new team.
Not to be a Grinch — but it borders on disgusting.
Not all cases are the same, but for the most part everyone involved knows the sole reason behind the move is athletic. The problem is there is nothing athletic directors and coaches can really do about it.
“You don’t want to do it because you know (the transfer rule) isn’t right, but there isn’t much you can do,” Mountain Pointe football coach Norris Vaughan said about accepting the newcomers. “We have had some transfers but you have to work with whatever you have in front of you, but that doesn’t mean you want to or you like it.”
Administrators hate the ease at which students can move from school to school on a whim or out of disdain for the coach, or because of a lack of playing time or a bruised ego, but are they going to ignore the talent in front of them?
Coaches are going to play the best players on their roster regardless of where they come from — after the mandatory 10-day period that applies to a transfer within a school year.
There might finally be an end to this shameless practice as it appears the Arizona Interscholastic Association (AIA) finally has had enough.
The organization announced last week at its monthly executive board meeting a proposal to squelch such behavior by adopting a similar rule implemented by the Ohio High School Scholastic Association that enforces a year of being ineligible for anyone who transfers to a school within a 50-mile radius.
What that means is the AIA took off the blinders, puffed out its chest, and said enough is enough.
It’s not in place yet and there are indications that the 50-mile radius might be lessened, and there is expected to be an appeal process.
Whatever happens, anything close to this rule entering the by-laws is a huge step in correcting the state’s biggest problem.
“That’s the greatest news in Arizona high school athletics,” Vaughan said. “If anything would get me out of coaching it’s (the current rules). Kids shouldn’t be able to just move.
“I am totally for it as long as there is an appeals process for legitimate cases. There are probably more important things out there, although not many, but everyone knows something has to be done.”
Not everyone tries to skirt the rules.
There have been those — Desert Vista football player Lorenzo Melvin (Maricopa) and Mountain Pointe football player Kenny Lacy (Cesar Chavez) — who have done it correctly and sat out their sophomore years in order to be eligible as juniors.
In reality a good portion of the transfers, whether they “move” during the season or mid-semester, are off and running (or dribbling or wrestling) once they have a utility bill in the new school district.
It’s far from an Ahwatukee Foothills situation. It’s been a state-wide problem with the Chandler and Scottsdale districts getting the most attention over the years.
Coaches walk down the hall and all of a sudden they are being introduced to a new player. Everyone cries recruiting, but 99 percent of the time it’s more about what some have come to call self-solicitation.
Parents have seemingly become bolder, approaching coaches and asking where their child would fit in if they came over to the program, before deciding to leave because of unhappiness with a coach or simply because they are being blocked in the lineup by someone older and/or better than their athlete.
Vaughan will enter his fourth season running the Pride program in the fall with his fourth different quarterback, as last year’s starter Caleb Buck transferred to Maricopa where his mother is a teacher.
The top candidate entering spring is a move-in from a neighboring Tempe Union school. Outsiders are going to question how he ended up there, but there is nothing Vaughan can do about that.
All he can do is make sure the new player is ready to go by the time August comes around.
It’s my job, to a certain point, to follow this stuff but there is no easy way to keep track unless a coach volunteers it or the name is recognizable when the roster is released.
That doesn’t mean I want to or I like it, but it currently is life in Arizona athletics. Hopefully, it’s coming to an end and this proposal gets voted through by the conferences.
The one drawback is the legitimate cases, especially for seniors, who move for non-athletic reasons. The Ohio rule has an appeals process and it is hard to believe there wouldn’t be one here in Arizona as well so hardship cases should be allowed in the end.
If this proposal somehow gets shot down then someone or some group completely blew it.
Put an end to the loophole; stop some coaches from recruiting and parents from inquiring.
Bring respectability back to our neighborhoods, like when everyone wanted to play for their home school and athletes played with each other for years.
This is the step just about everyone — other than maybe those self-solicitating families shopping for their new apartment — involved in Arizona high school athletics wants to happen.
Anything less and it would be a travesty.
“The worst part of it is that good coaches and good people get caught up in it and they do things they shouldn’t do,” Vaughan said. “There is a loophole and a lot of people take advantage.”
So end it. Put cement over the loophole. Get this proposal passed.
• Contact writer: (480) 898-7915 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @JSkodaAFN.