JJ Husar transferred from Basha to Desert Ridge after the 2011 football season.
His father said they moved into Desert Ridge’s boundaries because JJ’s step-mother has lupus, and this moved them closer to her medical care. Struggling with paying the bills, JJ can now walk to Desert Ridge, where, despite a recent foot injury, could be the Jaguars’ starting running back this season after he led the Bears with 785 yards and 14 touchdowns as a junior despite splitting carries late in the season.
Had the 50-mile transfer rule currently being proposed existed, Husar might have to sit out a year for moving within that mileage radius. Desert Ridge coach Jeremy Hathcock said the Husars would have won an appeal. Two sources within the Basha football program, however, expressed doubts that football wasn’t a factor.
The proposed transfer rule would put the onus on the family (moreso than any school) to prove its “innocence” in a possible appeal.
It’s a moot point here since the rule is only still in discussion stages for now, and Husar’s situation is only one of possibly hundreds or even thousands of murky moving cases involving high school athletes — from elite to backups — around the state.
But if a rule is passed — whether it’s two, 10, 25 or 50 miles, or the entire state — it would beg the question of whether such a blanket rule would force high school kids and their families to think twice about moving to another school and sit out a year, or “stick it out” at their “home” school.
Supporters of this concept endorse the idea of teaching kids and families about adversity.
“Once you’re in, you’re in, and whether they’re originally there or not, they’ll be there for four years,” Hathcock said. “It really makes kids accountable to the message out there about adversity and dealing with the hand you’re dealt and not try to find a way out, and that’ll be nice.”
Opponents fear the rule would be too controlling over families who want to do what’s best for their kid, academically and/or athletically.
“The facts are life isn’t fair and because of that, certain programs are more competitive than others for several reasons: money, coaches, boosters, facilities, etc.,” Chaparral softball coach Stefanie Ewing said. “Name a school that has a good program with a bad coach, bad facilities and little booster support? Some people want high standards and others want more competition. It doesn’t matter if the rule is 10 miles or 50, all that will happen is kids will suffer the consequences. This rule would just make people figure out how to get around the rule.”
Then there’s a third party, which contends tougher transfer rules would only curb these issues on a limited basis. As long as open enrollment is a state law, “home” schools don’t exist, and club sports, lower-level high school coaches and even friends all combine to offer the most “persuasion” toward kids’ freshman enrollment at their school of choice. To them, tougher transfer rules might alleviate 40-50 percent of kids and their parents.
“The effect will be that you will have fewer knee-jerk anger transfers, but the problem is not just kids and parents,” McClintock baseball coach Nathan Sheppard said. “It’s coaches. Coaches will just go further down the pipeline and you’ll have them using their (under-10) club team to get the best elementary kids, and it goes up (in age) from there.”
Or, as Pinnacle football coach Dana Zupke and Saguaro athletic director/boys basketball coach Bob LaRue both noted, wealthier families might legally challenge rules.
They’re among several who believe parents will find another means with which to skirt the rules for the sake of letting their kids play at whatever school they choose.
Whatever standard the appeals committee would set (or continue to uphold) remains to be seen, though AIA Executive Director Harold Slemmer hopes appeals granted for “extenuating,” and “unforseen” circumstances.
Would Husar have been included in that group? We’ll never know.
Cases such as Husar or St. Mary’s football players who were granted appeals to play at their original “home” school before last season because families could no longer afford tuition, are more likely to continue being granted on a case-by-case basis.
But the odds of parents moving because their kid was cut from one team, went through a coaching change or believe they deserve more playing time, could be numbered.
“Do I think it’ll make kids stay put? I think that was the purpose in Ohio (where the 50-mile rule was installed) so they wouldn’t just change all the time and lose a loyalty factor,” Slemmer said. “The rule, I think, would help families think twice about shopping around and not make it so easy to leave.”
Mark Heller is the East Valley Tribune sports editor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (480) 898-6576.