Athletic Transfer Rule Is On The Move, With Loyal Student Following Its Goal Line


October 21, 1990|By PAT O'MALLEY

If you've been wondering about whatever happened to that proposed athletic transfer rule, let me tell you that it could come to pass by the 1991-1992 school year.

The rule would require a student-athlete to sit out a year if he or she transferred specifically for sports.

The Board of Education Policy Manual has been under review for about a year -- that task charged to Dr. Donna diGrazia, assistant to the superintendent -- and the athletic transfer rule falls under the final chapter on student guidelines. That is Chapter 9 and diGrazia has just started it.

"The better part of the job is over because we've gotten through the first eight chapters and have just started nine," said diGrazia, who also handles negotiations with four school system unions.

"We expect to be finished with our review of the entire manual within the next several months and to have the entire nine chapters voted on as a package and to be ready for the start of the 1991-1992 school year."

County coordinator of physical education Paul Rusko has been pushing for an athletic transfer rule for years, and after a few controversies in the last couple of years, he feels its implementation is near.

"Summer a year ago, I felt it was pretty close, and then Dr. diGrazia was given the responsibility of reviewing the entire policy manual, which includes our proposal."

Rusko's proposal was made and seconded by Dr. Larry L. Lorton, superintendent of schools, and most of the county coaches and athletic directors. It basically recommends a one-year loss of eligibility for student-athletes who transfer within the county public high school system.

It was back in the winter of 1988 that a committee of Rusko, two principals, two athletic directors, two coaches, two administrators, a guidance counselor, a student and Huntley Cross, then special assistant to the superintendent and now a Jones Cable TV star, met to study an athletic transfer rule.

By mid-April of 1989 that committee made the one-year loss of eligibility recommendation with related guidelines that would discourage athletic transfers. Lorton, who is on record as being against athletic transfers, supports the proposal.

However, despite its overwhelming approval by the coaching community, it has been dormant since April 1989. But it was that summer of 1989 that diGrazia, who had spent 12 years in Frederick County as director of personnel and staff development, was charged with revising and updating the policy manual.

"It's something that had to be done for the last five or six years, and now we are doing it with your item in that last chapter," said diGrazia.

In late September 1988, Lorton, in a directive to county high school principals, encouraged coaches and staffers to take an active role in discouraging athletic transfers.

"A passive role, or silence, condones such behavior," Lorton told his principals.

The superintendent ordered the formation of a committee to review the transfer policy. Lorton re-emphasized the denial of transfers unless for legitimate reasons, and advised his principals, "When you learn that the requesting student is an athlete, the principal will notify immediately the coordinator of physical education (Paul Rusko) for follow-up."

Lorton also stressed that "the alleged assumption by some athletes/parents that age 18 carries with it a level of emancipation that obviates board policy and regulations is not so."

The superintendent made it clear that while he was in charge the policy regulations under "Age/Marriage Conditions" would require that the individual situation be thoroughly scrutinized and that such transfers would not be "automatically approved."

As a result, transfers have been more thoroughly investigated for the betterment of the high school athletic program.

"What we hope will be approved is that if a youngster who transfers and is an athlete, he or she will sit for one year," said Rusko. "But that student-athlete will have the opportunity for an appeal to show good cause or reason why they should be allowed to play (upon transfer)."

Let's face it, most athletic transfers are just that, but in some instances there are valid and just reasons.

I would hope that approval of the new one-year loss of eligibility policy, and it has a great chance of going into effect by next year, primarily will discourage the pursuit of misplaced values, encourage loyalty and show by thorough investigation that a particular transfer is valid and ethical beyond all doubt.

Once the policy manual review is completed by diGrazia, the board will work on it in workshops and suggest revisions. A vote by the board for action will take place followed by a vote on the whole package -- all nine chapters with revisions.

On the subject of athletics, diGrazia keeps close contact with Rusko, his office and "people who know a certain situation and have been involved in that situation."

In other words, diGrazia's revisions are only recommended after appropriate input.

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