NJSIAA Approves Transfer Rule Changes

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The Philadelphia Inquirer


ROBBINSVILLE, N.J. - Nearly all student-athletes who transfer to a high school in New Jersey starting July 1 will be required to sit out 30 days before participating in a game for their new team.

That's the impact of the vote by the executive committee of the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association on Wednesday to approve a heavily debated change to the organization's transfer rule.

"Something needed to be done," NJSIAA executive director Steve Timko said. "I respect everyone's opinion, and I realize there was some disagreement, but I'm glad this carried. I think it's a step forward."

The change will affect nearly all students-athletes who transfer, even if they played only freshman or junior varsity sports at their old school; even if their family changed residences; even if they moved from out of state.

In addition, athletes who transfer after the first scrimmage will be barred from playing in the state tournament in that sport along with sitting out 30 days.

And athletes who transfer more than once also will be barred from playing in the state tournament along with sitting out 30 days in every sport in which they participate.

There will be no appeal process, and the 30-day ineligiblity period will be enforced for every sport in which the athlete participated at his or her previous school.

"It's not a punishment," said NJSIAA associate director Mike Zapicchi, chairman of the public/non-public committee that created the new rule. "It's a good time for students to get acclimated to their new school, and they can still participate in all team activities [including practices] except for playing in games."

Under current NJSIAA rules, athletes who participated at the varsity level at their old school are required to sit out 30 days unless they can show a "bona fide change of address." In that case, they are eligible right away.

NJSIAA officials and critics of the growing trend of high-profile athletes' changing schools believe the "bona fide change of address" clause is a loophole often exploited by players and their families who are looking to transfer for athletic advantage.

"We're a federation of member schools, not an investigative agency," Zapicchi said of the organization's struggles in enforcement of the current rule.

Under the new rule, only students who are ruled to have transferred for reasons related to the state's harrassment, intimidation and bullying policies or because of homelessness will be exempt from the 30-day ineligiblity period.

The executive committee approved the motion by 25-9, with two abstentions.

A two-thirds majority was needed because the proposal marked a change in the by-laws in the NJSIAA's constitution.

Athletic directors Maureen Bilda of Deptford, Tony Mitchell of Paul VI, and Mike Gatley of Mainland and superintendent James Lavender of the Kingsway school district voted in favor of the change.

Haddonfield principal Chuck Klaus voted against the proposal.

Klaus has cited two main reasons for his disapproval: the impact on the large majority of students who don't transfer for athletic advantage as well as those students who participated at the sub-varsity level at their previous school.

Bilda said a strengthening of the transfer rule was necessary because of the growing number of athletes who look to change schools for reasons related to sports.

"It's like you don't even have hometown teams anymore," Bilda said. "You're fighting to keep your kids, to build programs. Maybe this will put a stop to it."

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February 9, 2017


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