MIAA proposal on transfers could further crack barrier

On High Schools

April 16, 2006|By MILTON KENT

It doesn't matter whether you send your kids to Dulaney or Gilman or Oakland Mills or Mount St. Joseph, you would have had to have been living in a cave during the past year not to have noticed that the walls between the state's private and public schools have been crumbling, albeit slightly.

The next brick to fall might come next month when the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association, the conference to which most Baltimore private schools belong, considers adopting a new, more restrictive transfer policy.

An MIAA committee has recommended that the conference adopt a policy that would bar transfers from any school, public or private, from playing for a full calendar year after a transfer.

Currently, the MIAA requires transfers from within the league to sit out a year, but allows athletes from public schools to play without penalty as long as they arrive at their new school between the end of a school year and the start of fall sports practice the next year.

That would go out the window, as well as most of the MIAA's waiver policy, save for those students who move to Maryland from out of state or move from a distance greater than 100 miles within the state.

"By eliminating the waiver process, all you have is the rule that, if you transfer, this is what's going to happen," said Rick Diggs, the MIAA's executive director. "People know what's going to happen ahead of time, and they go into it knowing what's going to happen ahead of time. If you decide to transfer, it's going to affect your athletic eligibility."

The policy change, which must be ratified by three-quarters of the principals of MIAA schools in a vote May 15, would bring the private school league in line with policy observed by many state public schools systems, which bar transfers from playing any sports for their new school for a year.

The new policy should also go a long way toward salving some of the wounds left from the transfer of Rudy Gay from Eastern Tech to Archbishop Spalding in September 2002. Gay's transfer set off a controversy in which area public school coaches essentially accused MIAA schools of re- cruiting and raiding their rosters.

"At that point, we had no transfer policy for kids coming in from public schools," Diggs said. "Nothing that happened with Rudy Gay was illegal from the MIAA's eyes because we had no policy for kids who came in from public schools.

"Here's a high-profile kid who obviously was the No. 1 basketball player in the area and all of a sudden he appears at one of our schools. Of course, we took a [public relations] hit."

Diggs attempted, as he had in previous years, to push through a rule similar to the one being proposed for ratification next month, but it was again shot down by the MIAA membership.

What could be different this time is that a federal court judge's ruling in a lawsuit filed by the father of a home-schooled athlete who wanted to participate in events sanctioned by the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association has cleared up some of the murkiness that existed between the public and private school policies.

Diggs and other MIAA officials have negotiated steadily with state superintendent of schools Nancy S. Grasmick, as well as MPSSAA executive director Ned Sparks, to bring their rules in line with the state rules. Changing the transfer policy takes the process one step further.

"We needed to come more in line with that [public school transfer policy] and while we looked at that, we also had to look at our own policy," Diggs said. "We've always had a transfer policy, but we've always also had a policy where you could appeal the decision that was made concerning the ineligibility. This has been the most controversial and divisive thing that we've faced in the past 10 years."

While the public and private schools have grown closer, they haven't gotten close enough, in Diggs' view, to consider having MIAA and MPSSAA schools play in a unified state playoff tournament.

"Even though this brings us a little closer to what the public schools would like to see, there's just a myriad of other things that would have to happen before we would be accepted into the state playoff system," Diggs said.

"I don't see that coming in the near future. I think there's too many things that we're able to do right now that the public schools don't feel would create a level playing field for us to be in the state playoffs."

Among those "things" are, Diggs said, the privates' policy of open enrollment, as well as such differences as the fact that the MIAA allows for play on Sundays.

But the barriers between the sides are certainly smaller than they were a year ago. Anyone this side of a cave can see that. milton.kent@baltsun.com

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