OHSAA rule is long overdue

The days of Ohio's best athletes jumping from high school to high school as the seasons change are over.
That's because the Ohio High School Athletic Association has a new transfer bylaw that goes into effect this week that will end some of the shenanigans created by the state's open-enrollment policies.
We've heard tales of Cleveland athletes who have played football for one school and basketball for another before transferring back in time for graduation.
Closer to home, we've seen an athlete play soccer for one Trumbull County school, then dribble a basketball for another, all without relocating.
Meat market: The old rules created a ridiculous meat market with out of whack priorities and this overdue rule will help clean up some of the stench. With this new rule, most athletes pursuing a four-year career will have to settle for one school.
Now, we're not saying that recruitment will disappear from the high school scene. Heaven knows the OHSAA is powerless to enforce rules against much of the under-the-table wheeling-and-dealing that goes on. Parents will continue to be offered jobs as enticement.
But the new OHSAA rule will cut down on the frequency of athletes jumping ship in search of immediate greener pastures.
The new rule means recruiters will have to make decisions on athletes at a younger age (junior high). And that's a positive step for those who play by the rules.
The new rule allows students completing eighth grade to remain free to pick any open-enrollment high school outside their residence.
But the game changes once they enter high school. Simply put, the new rule requires high school athletes to sit out one year of athletics if they change schools but don't move.
If this rule had been in effect three years ago, then-Fitch freshman running back Maurice Clarett would have had to sit out his sophomore season when he transferred to Warren Harding.
There is an exemption clause that allows a student to retain eligibility if the transfer has the approval of both high school principals, but that's not likely to be invoked very often. (Can you imagine the Struthers/Canfield/Poland principals calling the Mooney principal and agreeing that a standout athlete would be better off with the Cardinals? Me neither.)
Deadlines: When does the new rule take effect? According to Duane Warns of the OHSAA, it depends on which sport the athlete competes in.
For winter and spring sports, eligibility will be set on the first day of school. That means basketball players, swimmers, wrestlers, track and field performers, boys tennis players and baseball and softball players have until their first class to decide.
For example, if a Boardman basketball player decides to transfer to Ursuline, that athlete has until Sept. 4 to establish eligibility.
For fall sports (football, volleyball, soccer, golf, cross country and girls tennis), the deadline comes sometime this month. Warns said eligibility is set the first time an athlete competes in an actual match or a scrimmage against another school.
Football scrimmages begin around Aug. 14. Once an athlete competes against another school's squad in a practice, that player is tied to his school. So if a football player competes in a scrimmage then decides to transfer to another program, he would have to sit one year from the date of his new enrollment.
Because golfers don't usually have exhibition matches, their eligibility will be set on the first day of competition. Most high school golf teams play their first match by Aug. 15.
Volleyball and soccer scrimmages pepper the mid-August schedule.
The new rule means temperamental athletes and their families now have to think twice before jumping ship. It's a long overdue rule.
XTom Williams is a sportswriter for The Vindicator. Write him at williams@vindy.com.

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