New rule should curb high school free agency

The News Herald (Willoughby, OH) - - SPORTS - John Kampf

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

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