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Preps Playbook: The impact of transfers on school athletics

Granada High School basketballers in action during a past home game.

In my opinion, transfers are destroying college athletics. The transfer portal has changed the landscape of college athletics, throwing loyalty to any school right out the window.

Not happy with your current school, move to another school - its that easy.

The culture has now invaded the high school sports world and has certainly changed the landscape of a schools program. The most blatant local example took place at Foothill High this year with the football.

Chris Lawson had established himself as one of the top football players in Northern California and was the type of player that kept the Falcons in any game in his freshman and sophomore seasons.

Lawson was named to the All-EBAL team as a freshman. As a sophomore he was the Offensive and Defensive Player of the Year in the Valley division.

Facing a daunting season, the Falcons have been forced to move into the ultra-competitive Mountain division of the East Bay Athletic League.

Heading into his junior year, Lawson was going to be counted upon by his teammates to be competitive. It would never happen.

Initially last year Lawson tried to transfer to Serra-San Mateo, but when he didn't get into the school, Archbishop Riordan High School opened its doors to Lawson, as well as several other high-profile players in a power move to build a high-profiled football program along the likes of Serra and De La Salle.

Foothill took another hit when two-way All-EBAL first team selection Samear Lattier suddenly bolted for Tracy High.

At the end of the day, the parents are going to do what they feel is best for their students -- I mean athletes -- which is something I fully understand. The kicker for me is the majority -- above 90 percent -- of transfers are athletically motivated which is supposed to be a no-no.

Just about every school in the East Bay Athletic League has benefited from transferring athletes in a variety of sports. I've seen it for years and it is still going on.

They don't have an option in order to compete.

It really has been a "don't hate the player, hate the game," mentality over the years.

That being said, I decided to deep-dive into the game and see on the record what is the game.

I have gone through the Transfer Eligibility, guidelines from the California Interscholastic Federation, the governing body for high school sports in California.

I started with Administrative Guidelines for CIF Member Schools understanding CIF Transfer Eligibility for interscholastic athletics.

I highly recommend reading it yourself so you can see the rules and see how badly schools are violating the rules for transfer and very little is being done.

Transfer Eligibility - California Interscholastic Federation (

I went through all 17 pages and came to one immediate conclusion.

Schools are not even paying attention to CIF policy and sections are basically rubber stamping anything they want to do.

I have copied various sections in the guidelines for use in this story. Once again, I highly suggest looking at the current CIF transfer eligibility guidelines and you too will be amazed.

The following are the sections I pulled out of the lengthy guidelines.

* The new school must also verify the student has met the scholastic requirements of the school and CIF and there was no Undue Influence.

Like perhaps following a club coach to a new school? Oh, wait there is a section for that coming up.

*The school administration shall inform the family that there are limited circumstances under which the student and/or parent/guardian may appeal the decision of the Section Commissioner granting their student limited eligibility or denying eligibility under the following CIF Bylaws:

* 207.B.(5). a.(iv) or b.(v). or c.(iii) Following a Coach
* 510 Undue Influence, Athletically Motivated Transfer

This is not the only time we will see the phrase "Athletically Motivated Transfer".

*The CIF, as the governing body of high school athletics, affirms that athletic competition is an important part of the high school experience and that participation in interscholastic athletics is a privilege. The privilege of participation in interscholastic athletics is available to students in public or private schools who meet the democratically established standards of qualification as set forth by the Federated Council. CIF Bylaws governing student eligibility are a necessary prerequisite to participation in interscholastic athletics because they:

(6) Serve as a deterrent to students who transfer schools for athletic reasons and to individuals who recruit student-athletes. There were other examples but No. 6 hit home and is straight and to the point. I added No. 9 below because it was the most entertaining. As an announcer, there are multiple times I had to read the script for CIF events. The following statement is almost always mentioned. It also adorns CIF programs and signs.

*(9) Support the Principles of Pursuing Victory with Honor.

An absolute joke right now.

The following relate to the masses that use any reason other than athletically motivated transfer, when the real reason is athletically motivated transfer.

*202. B. Penalty for Providing Incorrect, Inaccurate, Incomplete or False or Fraudulent Information

(1) If it is discovered that any parent(s)/guardian(s)/caregiver or student has provided incorrect, inaccurate, incomplete or false information in regards to any aspect of eligibility status on behalf of a student, that student is subject to immediate ineligibility for CIF competition at any level in any sport for a period of up to 24 calendar months from the date the determination was made that incorrect, inaccurate, incomplete or false information was provided.

(2) If it is discovered that persons associated with the student or the school [coaches, teachers, parent(s)/guardian(s)/caregiver, friends, etc. provided incorrect, inaccurate, incomplete or false information in order to fraudulently gain favorable eligibility status for a student, that student is subject to immediate ineligibility for competition at any Section member school at any level in any sport for a period of up to 24 calendar months from the determination that incorrect, inaccurate, incomplete or false information was provided whether the student was aware of the fraudulent information or not. 9 (Revised October 2001 Federated Council)

(3) Any contests in which a student or students participated based on incorrect, inaccurate, incomplete or false information or fraudulent practices regarding eligibility status shall be forfeited according to the guidelines set in accord to the rules of the Section.

(4) Teams a. If it is determined that someone associated with a school (including, but not limited to, a coach) knowingly participates in either providing incorrect, inaccurate, incomplete or false information or using fraud or knowingly allows others to do so, in order for a team to meet qualification standards in any event, that team will be subject to immediate ineligibility for further competition in that sport that season. b. Any contest in which that team has participated based on incorrect, inaccurate, incomplete or false information or fraud shall be forfeited according to the guidelines of the Section or the CIF.

That covers it all right there. Nothing else needs to be said, provided we had people at CIF or the respective sections that had the guts to make schools actually follow the rules.

One more section that spells everything out in black and white again.

*Q: What is meant by an athletically motivated move or transfer? A: Based on the CIF philosophy that students attend school to receive an education first; athletic participation is secondary [Bylaw 200.

A. (2), individual Section Offices may limit eligibility for a student when there is evidence the transfer, or move is made to acquire athletic participation at school.

B. Such evidence of an athletically motivated move may include, but is not limited to:

  • Transferring to a School after Participating on a Non-School Athletic Team, Camp or Clinic Associated with the School
  • Transferring to a School Where a Former High School Coach Has Relocated
  • A demonstrated move or transfer that is prompted by association with club programs or outside agencies that use the facilities of the new school.
  • Evidence that multiple students have transferred or changed schools to participate in a particular sports program at one (1) school. (Revised April 2017 Federated Council)

(iii) If the transfer is determined to be athletically motivated. Athletically motivated transfers may be considered prima facie evidence that the student enrolled in that school in whole or in part for athletic reasons and cause the student to be ineligible for participation in those sports in which the student participated at the former school. (See also Bylaw 510)

Finally, in dealing with club coaches moving into the high schools ranks, there is the following.

*Club Coach Association with New School (student transfers to a new school which a coach from the students non-CIF sports participation experience is associated).

The transfer of a student from his or her current school of attendance with or without a valid change of residence (Bylaw 206) to any CIF member high school where the student participated, during the previous 24 months, on a non-school athletic team, (i.e. AAU, American Legion, club team, etc.) that is associated with the new school in the sports previously participated in shall be considered prima facie evidence (sufficient evidence) of undue influence/recruiting by the school to which the student transfers.

Such transfer may be considered prima facie evidence (sufficient evidence) that the student enrolled in that school in whole or part for athletic reasons. A team associated with the school is one that is organized by and/or coached by any member of the coaching staff at, or any other person associated with, that school and/or on which the majority of the members of the team (Participants in practice and/or competition) are students who attend that school.

When a prima facie case (sufficient evidence) of undue influencing/recruiting exists, the student shall be ineligible to represent the new school in interscholastic athletic competition for a period of one (1) calendar year from the date of the students enrollment in the new school in all sports in which the student participated at any school in the last 12 months and/or the sport with which the coach referenced herein is associated, unless sufficient proof is presented to the satisfaction of the Section Commissioner that rebuts or disproves the evidence of undue influence/recruiting for athletic reasons

Wow black and white right there yet completely ignored by so many. It is interesting and relevant because high school sports are becoming exactly like club sports, and that's not a good thing.

Transfers have been taking place for years and will continue to do so. Local schools have benefited at times and have suffered in other cases.

The eligibility rules are a joke.

If residency is established in a school district, with is dotted and ts crossed, the athlete does not have to sit. It appears to be the same with private schools transfer in and play right away.

Now if you transfer but don't live in the district, then according to transfer rules, you must sit 50 percent of the calendar time of your season.

I have seen it where a family picks up and rents a housing unit in the new school district and the athlete is eligible. A family that stays in their family house must sit for 50 percent of the season.

At this point there seems to be only two ways to go.

1) Follow the rules and guidelines that have been established and actually enforce them. A novel idea but we could give it a chance.

2) Drop all the rules and let students transfer as many times as they want and let them be eligible immediately. Lets make it the wild west again thats the direction we seem to be headed.

I would prefer option one, but realistically option two is almost where we are right now. It would remove some of the advantages private schools have right now and there would be less time wasted not enforcing rules that are already in place.

If nothing else, high school athletics governing bodies need to stop pretending they are following any guidelines.

Finally, please get rid of the phrase Pursuing Victory with Honor. With everything going on and being ignored, it makes me want to throw up.

Editor's note: Dennis Miller is a contributing sports writer for the Pleasanton Weekly. This column originally appeared in Tri-Valley Preps Playbook, a weekly sports e-newsletter published by Embarcadero Media. To sign up for free, visit

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