Canceling sports in high school could trigger rampant transfers

Get ready for the high school sports version of a robust California college transfer portal if any sports cannot be played during the 2020-21 school year due to the coronavirus.

Under CIF rule 207.B.5.a, students who do not participate in a sport for a 12-month period have unlimited eligibility and can change schools without penalties.

There is real uncertainty about whether football will be played this entire school year in Southern California after being delayed since last July. Southern Section Commissioner Rob Wigod has said practices should begin on February 15 for the reduced season to end on April 17. Under the state’s color tiered reopening system, soccer can be played in counties on the orange tier, a difficult challenge to reach for next month because many counties are on the much more restrictive purple tier.

While not playing soccer until the fall of 2021 would be devastating for the senior class, freshmen would have the option to change schools without the requirement of waiting a month to transfer without changing residence.

That absence of transfer restrictions could lead to an intriguing dynamic, as transfers are often made for sporting reasons. Transfers have been drastically reduced this school year with no sports taking place. In the Southern Section, the total transfers from July to December was 1,123. For the same period in 2019, it was 4,967, a decrease of 77%.

“I think there will be a lot of unrestricted transfers,” said Lake Balboa Birmingham Athletic Director Rick Prizant.

Prizant said it would support granting an additional year of eligibility to current seniors if their sports seasons are canceled. That is a proposal that would need CIF approval.

The best athletic programs have remained consistently powerful with the help of transfer students, thus avoiding years of rebuilding. Those programs are likely to benefit the most if the seasons cannot begin this school year, giving parents options for 2021-22.

The section commissioners are motivated to try to get the sports seasons in motion, knowing that canceling sports would create additional problems for 2021-22.

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