Coaches, SSAC fear chaos with proposed bill to adjust sports transfer rules

Coaches, SSAC fear chaos with proposed bill to adjust sports transfer rules

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Coaches and the West Virginia Secondary Schools Activities Commission are not thrilled with a bill moving in the Legislature which would liberalize the transfer rules in high school sports.

Some even believe Senate Bill 262 would create a defacto high school transfer portal and manifest the same chaos which has beset college athletics in the past two seasons.

“We’re worried about the coercion that could be out there to the kids that a 15 to 18 year old doesn’t need right now,” said Wes Eddy, Executive Director of the West Virginia Coaches Association.

Eddy and his organization fear the rule will open up the flood gates of students transferring with no parameters. Currently a student can pick their high school in the 8th grade. They may transfer after the 9th grade year, but are forced to sit out a year to regain eligibility. The rule is often skirted with an appeal for a wavier to the West Virginia SSAC and most of the time those waivers are granted. Students can also transfer if their family moves to a new school district.

“We’ve seen the craziness in college of the portal and all of these players coming and going. Now kids aren’t graduating and can’t get their credits lined up,” said SSAC Executive Director Bernie Dolan.

Dolan and Eddy both feared the same kinds of problems for high school students who are transferring back and forth between a school which is on a traditional block schedule versus a seven-period configuration to the school day. The switching could cost a student athlete a credit required for graduation.

Most acknowledge, although illegal, recruiting is happening now. But it’s much more subtle and done largely by parents and other students and fans. Eddy feared the Senate Bill would open the flood gates and could impair competition.

“We want to have a competitive atmosphere and we don’t need to have every student go to one particular school for a particular sport. That doesn’t necessarily breed a competitive atmosphere when one team is loaded with all of the talent from the area,” Eddie explained.

But Senator Ryan Weld of Brooke County who is the chief sponsor of the bill believes it is about freedom and choice for the students and their families.

“I think it’s very important that we provide every student with every opportunity that they should be allowed to have,” he said.

Dolan said there is precedent for why the policy is a bad idea. Previously there was an even more liberal rule in place which according to him created a mess.

“It let you go every year and caused a lot of problems among schools. People were floating back and forth based on who was going to be good that year. It caused a lot of dissension among the schools and the kids,” said Dolan.

Eddy worried about the message being sent to students by the school system where schools are supposed to be teaching life lessons.

“It’s an extension of the classroom. Yes, you may not have the best program this year, but you may have next year. It’s a great learning experience that not everything is going to go your way and you need to work through it,” he said.

The state Senate has already approved the bill and it’s pending before the House of Delegates.