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Published: Thursday, 11/30/2000

Transfers scramble talent in City League

BY STEVE JUNGA
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

Perhaps it's a sign of the times, but the free-agent philosophy of professional sports has apparently filtered down to the high school level.

The team-hopping nature of the pro game has taken hold with significant impact in the City League this year, as several boys basketball players have transferred to other league schools.

And it's all within the rules.

This is not the first time players have changed schools, but this year's relocations appear to be the most widespread in recent memory.

If you want to know who has moved where, get out a pencil and paper and take notes.

Now on the varsity roster at Scott are 6-8 junior Derrick Ford, who played at Start last season, and Jason Lawson, who played at Bowsher a year ago. They join senior Brandon Foster, a former Start player who transferred to Scott before his junior year.

At Libbey, talented 6-4 senior guard Danny Williams is now a member of the defending CL-champion Cowboys. He played at Scott as a freshman and sophomore before playing at a prep school in New England last year. He joins new Libbey players Andre Autman and Earl Grace, who transferred from Scott, and Derrick Reynolds, who came from Start. Neither Autman nor Reynolds played last year.

Over at Central Catholic, which is not one of the league's public schools, senior guard Chris Ireland transferred from Libbey after three years there. He played football and is now playing basketball.

At Rogers, 6-7 junior Harvey Ridley is a member of the Rams varsity after transferring from Maumee Valley Country Day School.

At Start, senior DanJuan Witcher is playing basketball after playing football for the Spartans in the fall. He was a standout in both sports at Scott last year, and transferred during two-a-day football practices in August.

At Bowsher, 6-8 junior Reggie Boyd, a transfer from Perrysburg, was supposed to be a part of the Rebel basketball team until academic ineligibility from the year's first grading period delayed his entry.

Dwaine Thames, who played at Bowsher last year, has transferred to Waite, where his cousin Craig Thames played before starring at the University of Toledo.

“I like it at Start,” said Witcher, who said he moved into the district. “It's different. I like the atmosphere, the coaches and the strategies in football and basketball.

“It was real tough leaving Scott after all the hard work we put in for three years with my teammates. We had a good team, and this was going to be our year.”

These moves represent most, but not all, of the transfers in the City League this year, and cover just boys.

All of the moves are within the rules, according to City League commissioner Ed Scrutchins, who said only one of them was even contested by the former school. That was the transfer of Ford, who Scrutchins says provided proof of residence in the Scott district to school officials there.

“I hear rumors all the time,” Scrutchins said of allegations about falsified residency and recruiting accusations, “but unless the people involved are willing to testify to me, there's nothing I can do. If somebody admits it to me, then I have to deal with it.”

Within the Toledo Public Schools district, it is Scrutchins who investigates and rules on transfer issues.

An often-heard complaint, Scrutchins says, is that students are accused of having legal residence established within a school's boundaries while actually eating and sleeping each night in another location.

“It doesn't matter where the kid sleeps,” Scrutchins said. “The only thing that matters is the residence of the custodial guardian. If they're not actually there, then you've got a problem.”

Scrutchins agrees that the number of transfers is unusually high this year, but says as long as the moves are made within the rules, it's beyond his control. If a residency question arises, he defers to the officials who oversee enrollment at the incoming school. “It's up to them to verify whether or not the kid is a resident of their school district.”

Is this trend toward relocation a disturbing reality or simply the evolution of parents and their children seeking the situation they feel best suits their present and future interests?

Athletes who transfer from one school district to another fall under the governing power of the Ohio High School Athletic Association, which passed new regulations this year designed to curb the ever-increasing practice.

It is the association's position that many of the transfers were made by students who are seeking to place themselves in a more opportunistic position athletically.

But that won't happen anymore, unless the athlete wants to sit out a year of sports. To retain the right to participate without sitting out, the athlete's legal guardian must establish residency in the new district where the student has transferred.

This OHSAA regulation should limit the number of district-to-district jumps, but what about student-athletes who wish to transfer between schools within the same district, such as the seven public schools in Toledo's City League?

Athletes longing for a change of scenery within the league have several options, and the OHSAA cannot restrict such moves.

First, incoming TPS freshmen have the one-time option to retain residence in one school's boundaries, yet attend one of the other six schools provided the student's racial composition reduces the racial imbalance at the other school.

Another option is to express a desire to attend a specific class that is offered at another school but not at yours (ie. a Rogers student requests to take a specialized computer class at Bowsher). As long as the request is made before 15 days have elapsed in the school year, and the new school can accommodate the remainder of the transferring student's class choices, the move is OK in regard to retaining immediate sports eligibility at the new school.

A catch here is that, if the athlete has already participated in one official scrimmage or game at the old school during those first 15 days, he or she must sit out one sports season before regaining eligibility to play at the new school.

A third and more flexible option for student-athletes is simply to have his or her legal guardians move into the boundaries of the school he or she wishes to transfer to. As long as the student can show proof of residence (ie. mortgage or rent receipts, utility bills, etc.) that can be verified by the enrollment office at the incoming school, they have the opportunity to participate in sports with no waiting period.

Also, in a scenario where a student's legal guardians move to another school district within or outside of the district and still within Ohio, he or she can opt to stay at their school for the remainder of the school year, provided they have a way to get the school each day.

There are also options for students who reach age 18, who can move out of the home of their legal guardians to another school within the district and still be eligible for immediate participation. The student must show proof of having adequate financial resources (ie. paychecks from an employer) to subsist independently at the new residence. In all cases, athletes must be academically eligible and the new coach must permit them to join the team.



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