When athletics gets in way of a student's well-being

SIDELINES

February 28, 1993|By PAT O' MALLEY

If 18-year-old Rob Miller was a member of the band or drama club, there wouldn't be such concern about his recent transfer from North County to Northeast High.

There have been more than 3,000 out-of-district transfers in the county within the past year, but most of them have been at the elementary school level for behavioral reasons.

"No more than 100 of them have occurred at the senior high level," said John McGinnis, director of Pupil Services.

While McGinnis and county coordinator Rick Wiles said there is no specific athletic transfer policy, it's a fact that athletes draw extra attention when they attempt to transfer. Miller happens to be a student/athlete, a pretty good baseball catcher, and thus, the hypocrisy of some county coaches and the school board is shining brightly once again.

"I feel that Rob was denied a transfer the first time, which I am still appealing, because he plays sports," said his mom, Karen Miller.

"Baseball has nothing to do with this as some people think, and I'm extremely upset about that. It all came to a head during the Christmas holidays, and we needed to get Rob out of stressful situations that are personal."

Miller's attempt to transfer to Northeast for his final semester of school and still live in the North County district was denied by McGinnis, who would not say why.

"I was told by a professional that I was emotionally upset and that it would be best for me to leave [North County]," Rob said. "I didn't like being there at North County and this was not done for athletics. It was done because of my personal problems."

You may recall the celebrated "athletic transfer" of blue-chipper Josh Bullock from South River to Arundel in January of 1989. Bullock followed school board policy, which emancipates an 18-year-old who establishes residence in his new community, something Miller has done.

Bullock happened to be an impact player, something Miller has not been. The latter has never been All-County, but is a reliable catcher.

Northeast principal, Dr. Joseph Carducci said that the board approved the transfer because, "he [Miller] now lives in our attendance area and is of the legal age of 18 to reside where he wants."

Despite following the same policy, the Bullock transfer caused an uproar among the county public school baseball coaches who ganged up on Arundel coach Bernie Walter. Apparently, Northeast coach Harry Lentz will escape the wrath that, in my opinion, was unjustly dealt Walter.

The coaches banded together, threatened to boycott Arundel games (until told if they did, they would lose their jobs), called for Walter's removal as region baseball chairman and drew up a petition calling for a new transfer policy at a meeting they did not tell Walter about.

Walter was never given a chance to sign (all the other coaches did) the petition, which did not specifically mention Arundel or Walter, but was clearly aimed at the school and coach.

"That was a totally different situation," said Lentz, who also has another transfer in left-handed pitcher Ed Nalley. The latter legally moved his senior year from Glen Burnie to Northeast and has had a good season for the Eagles' basketball team.

His move didn't draw a lot of attention, perhaps because it occurred at the start of the school year and not the final semester of a senior year as in the case of Miller and Bullock.

When asked if the Miller case was different from Bullock because Walter was not involved, Lentz declined to comment.

North County coach Don Usewick and principal Bill Wentworth say they believe it is same thing.

South River basketball/baseball coach Ken Dunn, who lost Bullock to Arundel and led the charge against Walter, echoed Lentz.

"The Bullock situation was different," said Dunn, whose basketball and baseball teams greatly benefited from the presence of Al Lee, another board-approved transfer.

Lee, who lived in the Annapolis district, was all-county in both sports and is on a baseball scholarship at Mount St. Mary's in Emmitsburg after graduating from South River last June.

"Yes, Al lived in the Annapolis district the entire time he attended South River, but the board approved it. Our petition brought attention to a problem, and we did our part, yet no athletic transfer policy has ever been approved.

"So, if it's [Miller] a legal transfer, it's a legal transfer and nothing should be done about it," Dunn said.

I agree, but am troubled by a couple things. It bothers me that when certain coaches benefit from such transfers, it's OK. But when the most successful baseball coach in county history does, it's not.

The implication is that Walter recruited Bullock and Lentz didn't recruit Miller. I don't believe either coach unethically recruited either student and attribute Walter's problems to sheer envy.

Finally, and most importantly, don't we need to better address the feelings of the student involved? Mrs. Miller told me her main concern was the welfare of her son, and if that means a transfer in his best interests, so be it. No student should be denied emotional peace because he happens to hit a baseball or shoot a basketball.

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