Pasco school district reining in athlete transfers Would require sitting out a year after ninth grade

Transfering from one high school to another for the purpose of playing sports has become a statewide problem the past few years.

The Pasco County School District has addressed this in policies that will make it more difficult to transfer.

Effective the coming 2013-14 school year, the participation policy for student-athletes who transfer has been revised to better keep student-athletes in the school where they are assigned.

"We may not have as many transfers as other counties, but we do have kids who have been in four different high schools in four years," said Phil Bell, Pasco County supervisor of athletics and facilities. "But it's going to stop the, 'Hey, my team isn't doing well, I don't like my coach and so I'm going to jump schools.' "

The new policy states that each student-athlete who transfers after ninth grade must sit out of participation for one calendar year from the date of enrolling in a new school.

However, the policy does provide valid reasons for a transfer, such as a complete move of residence, and all students who are affected by this policy may appeal their non-participation status to the district's Athletic Transfer Participation Committee in an attempt to regain participation status.

"I think that with the appeal process in place, it is a fair policy," Bell said. "A parent moves or wants or needs to relocate for a job, then people have the right to pick up and move. If it's a legitimate reason, and they're able to document the story, the committee will be receptive to that."

Bell believes many counties across the state - including Hillsborough County, which adopted a policy similar to Pasco's - are clamping down on transfers because of the recent legislation that went before state lawmakers.

That legislation would take away most of the deciding power from the Florida High School Athletic Association. While that legislation did not pass, it prompted school districts to take a closer look at athletes transferring and athletic programs recruiting such athletes.

"I think the legislators wanted to see districts more involved with the decision making," Bell said. "That legislation was aimed at FHSAA, and that's what drove us to have a stronger transfer policy. We wanted to do the same thing districts were doing around the state."

For appeals, the transfer committee will initially meet twice a month starting in October. If a student-athlete's appeal does fail, Bell said they can appeal again, this time directly to Pasco Superintendent of Schools Kurt Browning.

The revised transfer policy has been met with mixed reactions, especially from coaches. Pasco High School football coach Tom McHugh, the county's longest-tenured football coach, thinks the process is fair, as long as the committee looks closely at each case.

"If a student is in Pasco, then in Hillsborough, then back in Pasco and that doesn't pop some flags, then something is wrong," McHugh said. "If someone moved to Wesley Chapel with their whole family, then that's their case, and each case has to be treated the same way."

Hudson boys basketball coach Jason Vetter, however, believes he is in the minority. Vetter, who has coached the Cobras for more than a decade, says students should be allowed to transfer without penalty. Vetter thinks if a student-athlete doesn't want to be at a certain school or play for a certain program or coach, why force him or her?

"I say, let them leave," Vetter said. "If they don't want to be here, don't make them be here."
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