Pasco toughens transfer rule for athletes

Pasco County, Florida -- The Florida High School Athletic Association website lays out the rules regarding student-athlete eligibility very clearly:

A "transfer" occurs when a student changes the school he/she attends during the school year. In order for a transfer student to be eligible to compete in interscholastic athletics for the school he/she is transferring to, the student must meet one of the provisions in FHSAA Bylaw 9.3.2. A student who changes schools during the summer is not a transfer student and does not need to meet one of the provisions in Bylaw 9.3.2 to be eligible to compete in interscholastic athletics for the new school.

However, the Pasco County school board has decided to add a level of security to its athletic rules and that has some parents very upset.

"They can't play because they came from a different district?" asked Barbara Cornell. "That's wrong. In my eyes that's wrong."

A 9-person committee has been put in place in Pasco to determine whether students who transfer into the county are doing so for athletic reasons rather than academic. If this committee deems the transfer to be sports-motivated, in their eyes, then the committee disallows the student from participating in that sport for one year.

The ruling directly overrules the standards set by the FHSAA, the state's athletic governing body, and the family members who have to explain it to their effected children are tired of getting no answers to why the committee even exists.

"It's road block after road block after road block," said Marlow Jones, whose nephews were denied the chance to play football because Pasco felt like their transfer from Hernando High to Ridgewood High was solely to play football.

Jones claims that isn't the case but the board wasn't interested in hearing the family's side of the story.

"(My nephew) was living with his father. For complicated reasons, he had to come back to live with his mother who has lived in the district for 41 years," Jones explained. She went to that very same high school that her some is at now. They're saying that since he moved from that school that he can't play for a whole year even though he transferred before the school year was even over."

The committee members met for over three hours Tuesday morning to discuss potential changes to the policy but none were made. Not every school board member agrees with the committee's rules.

"If they're in our attendance zone, they live with a legal guardian, they abide by the rules... I don't see how we deny them but we have," said board vice chairman, Steve Luikart.

The committee members say the rules were put in place to try to keep kids from cheating and teams from recruiting. Doing so could cost a team forfeits in games and a lost season for the players who didn't try to break the rules.

The school board will continue to meet to try to find a solution. Until they do, students like Jones' nephews will be forced to sit out despite being deemed eligible by the FHSAA.


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