Copyright 2017 The Deseret News Publishing Co.
Deseret Morning News (Salt Lake City)
SALT LAKE CITY - Parents, coaches, principals and superintendents packed a hearing with the Utah State Board of Education Thursday night pleading with them to repeal a rule that is barely a month old.
"The adoption of these rules is an anomaly," said Mark Van Wagoner, attorney for the Utah High School Activities Association, who said the action deviated from four decades of cooperative effort on the part of the two organizations. "It is unprecedented."
The rule (R277-409) passed its final reading in December and provided new oversight to the UHSAA, as well as putting into state board rule for the first time, regulations governing the transfer of high school athletes from one school to another.
The new rule deviates from current practice in a number of ways, but two significantly. First, while the current rules allow immediate eligibility for a full-family move, UHSAA rules mandate that students must attend their new boundary school. The new board rule could see a student move from Bountiful boundaries into Woods Cross boundaries and attend Highland High.
Second, the new rule allows a student to move to a school and be immediately eligible for varsity competition if that student hasn't played varsity in that particular sport at the school they are leaving. That means, as Van Wagoner pointed out, a student could theoretically attend different schools for each sport as long as he or she had never played varsity at the original school.
"Loosening the eligibility restrictions upon transfer will substantially increase competitive imbalance and unfairly impact innocent students," he said.
UHSAA executive director Rob Cuff said the association, which is made up of 149 member schools, didn't object to oversight but was adamantly opposed to the board's rules governing transfers. This was because the rule was made without regard for the process that the UHSAA uses to research and refine rules and by-laws that govern the prep sports and activities the group administers in conjunction with member schools.
Cuff asked the board to reconsider the rule and work with those dealing with the issues at a local level.
"It is the position of the UHSAA Board of Trustees that changes to current UHSAA by-laws should remain with its member schools," Cuff said.
That was a sentiment echoed over and over as 26 speakers moved to the microphone to voice their opposition and beg the board to repeal the rule.
Highland High athletic director Missy Mackay-Whiteurs wasn't planning to speak, but after listening to an hour of testimony, she was compelled to ask a question.
"Why are you not listening to those who are in the trenches?" she asked, adding that her door was always open if they wanted to "walk a day in our shoes."
She added: "This rule is really going to make life tough."
Several parents contacted the Deseret News this week saying they support the new rule - and looser transfer rules in general - but are afraid to speak publicly because coaches so overwhelmingly support the UHSAA and stricter transfer rules.
No decision was made by the board, which will take written comments from the public at rule .email@example.com through Jan. 31 at 5 p.m.
The election drastically changed the makeup of the state board with most of those who voted for the new board rule replaced by new members.
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