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News & Record (Greensboro, North Carolina)
GREENSBORO - Students and parents involved in Guilford County Schools' new athletics transfer procedure will be counted on to do the "honorable" thing, and it'll be up to the school system's athletics director, Leigh Hebbard, to determine when they don't.
The procedure announced Wednesday states that a student can change schools "one time after initial entry into the ninth grade, without penalty, if the student has a legitimate, non-athletic reason to change schools as determined by the District Athletic Director."
Before the change in procedure, a student could move from one high school to another without losing a year of athletics eligibility for one of four reasons: a verified change of address; to enroll in a special program such as a magnet or early or middle college; because the school board has changed the student's attendance zone; or because of an administrative placement at a different school for special services.
"I only have to deal with those who don't meet one of those four reasons," Hebbard said, "and that should be a low number. If it's a high number, we'll have to go back and revisit it because that will mean people are trying to use it as a loophole to do something that is a little bit less than honorable."
If Hebbard denies a transfer request because he determines that it is for an athletics reason, the student can appeal to the District Athletic Eligibility Committee. If that committee does not rule in favor of the student, the student can appeal directly to school Superintendent Sharon Contreras.
The change in transfer procedures has the potential for abuse and could generate significantly more work for Hebbard.
"Historically, we've only had a handful of those (that didn't meet one of the four requirements) that have been brought to my attention," he said, "so unless people go crazy trying to abuse the rule, it's not going to be a lot of kids."
Hebbard said he will have a basic transfer request form ready "one way or another" by Monday, when the schools' teams can officially begin practice for fall sports. All of those forms will go through his office.
Before he makes a decision on a transfer request, Hebbard said, he "will seek out the opinions of those at both schools to see what they think is going on."
But even with that information, it might not be easy to make a fair ruling.
"The difficulty is that you can never know what someone's intent is," Hebbard said. "You have to take all the facts that you can get, put them on the table and make your best judgment about whether a transfer request is for athletics or is this for some academic or other reason for the welfare of the student. That's all you can do."
Contact Joe Sirera at 336-373-7034, and follow @JoeSireraNR on Twitter.North Carolina is scheduled to appear before an NCAA infractions committee panel next month in its multiyear and oft-delayed academic case.