New rule should curb high school free agency
OHSAA members schools recently approved a rule that changed which part of a season transfers who don’t meet an exception must sit out. This is a good step, John Kampf writes.
A year had passed since Dan Ross heard the words of how a coach had built his team, and the commissioner of the OHSAA was still visibly shaken by what he had heard.
Speaking to a group of writers in April, Ross discussed what he heard a coach say in a press conference after his team had put another ‘W’ in the win column.
“We had a coach last year make a comment after the tournament that ‘We’ve done really well. It’s taken me two years to build this team through transfers and move-ins,” Ross said. “Then he listed all the kids’ names.”
Through a passage via referendum vote on May 15, the OHSAA announced a bylaw change that is aimed at cutting down on what many feel is free agency of high school athletes.
With the passage of the changes — 65 percent (450-244) of the voters approved the measure — student-athletes who transfer will sit out the second half of the regular season AND the OHSAA postseason tournament, unless they meet one of the 11 exceptions mandated by the OHSA A.
In years past, transfers sat out the first half of the season, but were eligible for the second half of the season and the postseason tournament run.
Effective with the coming school year, any student-athlete who transferred schools after May 16, 2018, and who does not meet one of the 11 exceptions will sit out the second half of the season and the postseason tournament.
Ross noticed a trend in recent years — and judging by the vote, member schools saw it, too.
“In the last couple years, we had a lot of schools building teams by getting kids to transfer and sit out 50 percent of the season because the belief is you can still win a state championship when (players become eligible),” Ross said. “Coaches would go to a scrimmage and say, ‘You got us now, but those three guys over there will be in the team for the tournament. When we get there, you’re going to see a completely different team.’”
That might be what the NBA is about, free agency to create super teams.
That might be what the NFL is about, positioning oneself to create a Super Bowl dynasty.
That is NOT what high school sports is about.
And again, 65 percent of the schools in Ohio who voted (125 of the 819 member schools did not vote) agreed.
“We do not believe that a high number of transfers is good for educationbased athletics,” Ross said.
Especially when it is done for the wrong reasons.
All too often, moves are made for the wrong reasons, such as...
• “My coach doesn’t like me, so I’m transferring.”
• “I need more exposure for college recruiting.”
• “I want to win a state championship, so I’m joining my AAU teammates at X school.” (Thank the NBA for that one).
News flash - when you enter the real world, you’re not always going to like your boss. Pushing players is often misconstrued for coaches hating players.
Participating in high school sports offers some of the best life lessons. Yet so many want to find the nearest shortcut to success.
It should scream volumes that this was not passed via executive order by the OHSAA, but rather by referendum vote by the association’s member schools. The member schools saw something they deemed wrong and have made an attempt to fix it.
Said Ross of an early April meeting with state athletic directors, “There was not one person who spoke up against this. They believe this will help deter the recurring phenomena - creating teams and building teams.”
There is undoubtedly going to be blow-back. There is already plenty of scuttle that this passage is aimed at basketball. Some have tried to enter racial factors into the voting result.
Many feel it’s aimed at private/parochial schools, which is a farce because public schools are also in the thick of this with open enrollment.
Ross admitted in April that - should the measure pass, he expected legal battles.
Eleven exceptions are in place, but Ross still forecasted battles in the courtroom.
“I’m sure we’ll be in court,” Ross said. “When we did 50 percent (sitting out the first half of a season) we were in court. We will be in court. We know we are going to be in court.”
Ross said the aim of the new rule is to deter people from transferring and to curb the building and creation of teams.
i.e. High school free agency. Will it work? Maybe. Will it need to be tweaked in coming years? Possibly. But it’s a start, and after seeing what high school sports has become over the recent years with players moving from school to school on a whim, it might be a welcome change.
Kampf can be reached via email at JKampf@ News-Herald.com; On Twitter @JKBuckeyes or @NHPreps