DCSAA proposal would limit athletic transfers for DCPS students

The District of Columbia Statewide Athletics Association introduced a proposal Friday that would force transferring students in the District to sit out a year before competing in athletic competition at their new school.

The potential change would be a departure from current DCSAA regulations, which grant immediate athletic eligibility to students transferring to public schools in the District should they meet certain benchmarks. The proposed rule change would allow ninth grade students to transfer once during their freshman year without penalty – but all other transfers would be ineligible to play for a calendar year unless they received certain waivers. Those waivers could be granted to a DCPS student moving to a new permanent address in the city or a student who has been ordered to transfer for non-athletic purposes among other possible reasons.

“It brings us on par with the other jurisdictions in the area,” DCSAA Director of Athletics Clark Ray said, referencing similar transfer rules that are in place in conferences in Maryland and Virginia, as well as in the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference. “It sort of brings some balance now, into making sure we, first and foremost, focus on academics. Not athletics.”

But the rule could potentially alter the city’s high school athletic landscape dramatically, according to longtime Cardozo athletic director and football coach Bobby Richards. He was a pillar in the Northwest school’s athletic department for nearly 30 years – coaching the football team for 25 before retiring last year – and the rampant transferring has always been intertwined with the District’s high school sports culture.

“It will make the kids and parents think before they just start transferring around,” Richards said. “The kids want to transfer to the schools that are winning. . . I saw a lot of transferring.”

Ray said that the current transfer regulations only address players transferring into the city from outside jurisdictions – an issue that surfaced once again in the fall. Throughout the past six months, DCPS has penalized three DCIAA football programs after separate investigations revealed all three had used an ineligible player at some point in the 2012 season, which led to the firing of H.D. Woodson football coach Greg Fuller in October, removed Wilson from the Turkey Bowl days before the game in November and stripped Dunbar of its Turkey Bowl title in February.

The new rule would be applied to all transfer scenarios, Ray said. The only language in the current athletics regulation that addresses transferring and recruiting within the city can be found in section 2701.2, which states “LEA and school representatives shall not engage in any activity seeking to influence a student to transfer from one (1) LEA or school to another for the purpose of participating in interscholastic athletics.”

The proposal now enters a 30-day period where the public can comment, and the DCSAA will consider the feedback before a final decision is made. No timeline has been set.

“I think it would be wise for us,” Ray said, “to have it in place certainly by the end of this academic year.”

The rule should have been implemented “a long time ago,” said Wilson girls basketball coach Eric White, who just completed his eighth year running the program. He has witnessed programs rise and fall because of transfers hopping from one DCIAA team to another. Last year, when a player from a rival school transferred into his program, he said he called the girl’s former coach to smooth the process out. The olive branch isn’t always extended in such cases between programs – but a new rule might make the friction between schools much more rare.

“I know there’s some kids . . . that I’ve seen, play as freshman at one school, and have been to a different school every year that they’ve been in high school,” White said. “[The proposed rule] makes the league have some type of substance.”

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