Alan Dell

Florida law making it easier for athletes to transfer no reason to panic

Shortly after the governor signed the bill last week that would give more freedom for athletes to transfer the alarmists were screaming from the top of their illusionary mountain top.

The ranting had been ongoing ever since the state legislature took away the autonomy that the FHSAA enjoyed for too long a few years back.

But this was not the state legislature vs. the FHSAA, which governs high school sports in Florida.

The bill emanated from parents of children who were denied justice when they transferred schools and some disgruntled coach screamed foul play.

"They stole my player," was the popular outcry from coaches, many of whom don't do enough to attract kids to play in their program or chased them away.

Now students can now transfer to any school in the state where there is room and the local school districts are ordered not to delay the process. The law takes effect in the 2017-18 school year.

If this is done correctly it eliminates unnecessary lying. Parents and their children will no longer be looked at as criminals because the real impetus behind their transfer was for athletic reasons.

Often kids accused of involvement in recruiting were hoarded into the FHSAA legal system where this body acts as a judge, jury and executioner.

The athletes were considered guilty un

til proven innocent and could not play until they were exonerated.

A good example here was the case of Desante Jordan and Breanna Nice, who were denied the right to play basketball at Southeast in their junior year (2011-12) after transferring though no evidence was ever presented to prove the case against them. It was based on flimsy circumstantial evidence put together by hearsay.

But let's back up.

The vast majority of coaches in Manatee County are dedicated to their craft and go the extra mile to get their players an athletic scholarship working extra long hours without financial compensation. There are some that don't. Parents of athletically inclined children know who they are and want to avoid them.

A legitimate question is why a coach or a school feels it owns the athletic rights to a child because that child happens to live in their district

There is a lot at stake here and it's more than wins or losses.

There is no equality when it comes to getting college athletic scholarships, and unfortunately the FHSAA system of justice is uneven.

The schools and their respective coaches are part of the FHSAA. A parent and child who come under question are not, but they have the most to lose.

A coach can lose a game. A child can lose a year of eligibility and a college scholarship.

Often parents don't have the money or knowledge of how to navigate their way through the appeal process and can't afford to hire an attorney, which discriminates against the economically disadvantaged.

House Bill 729 also puts the public schools on equal footing with private schools, which are not restricted by residential zones and boundaries.

Students transfer schools all the time because of academics or band or other reasons.

Why should athletes be denied?

We already have super athletic schools led by St. Thomas Aquinas.

One disturbing element of the new law is that it reduces the threshold for proving ineligibility of a student-athlete to a "preponderance of evidence," rather than "clear and convincing evidence."

That in part denied Jordan and Nice their rightful justice

Alan Dell, Herald sports columnist/writer, can be reached at 941-745-7056. Follow him on Twitter @ADellSports

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