Pasco County’s athletic transfer policy for athletes isn’t going anywhere.
Earlier this month, the Pasco County School Board declined to make any changes to the policy, which requires students who switch schools to sit out a calendar year before playing for their new school. They can appeal the one-year ban, but unless they meet certain criteria, the student isn’t playing.
The purpose of the policy is to prevent students from changing schools simply due to athletic considerations. However, some consider it stringent and controversial. The policy brings both positives and negatives to the table, said Land O’ Lakes High School athletic director Karen Coss.
Having the policy adds an extra check between the school and the Florida High School Athletic Association, she said.
“Having that extra check is a benefit. Without a policy, the schools make their own decisions, which can be ill-informed, or they need to navigate the FHSAA bylaws and policies,” Coss said.
On the other hand, schools have to identify affected students in order to request an appeal, Coss said. There’s also additional paperwork, which can put a further burden on an athletic director’s time.
Many athletic directors also are teachers — Coss teaches American government and human geography, for example — so the extra work can be challenging.
School board member Steve Luikart has been a critic of the policy as it’s being applied. But some have portrayed him as being against the policy itself, he said, and that’s not the case.
“I was never trying to rewrite something,” Luikart said. “We don’t have real big issues with the policy. We’ve had some big issues with the procedures and how they’re being implemented.”
Luikart believes there is some ambiguity in terms, such as what constitutes an enrolled student or a transfer student, he said. As a result, there are athletes being forced into an appeals process based on these interpretations when they should already be eligible to play sports.
“I’m under the impression that, according to the FHSAA, if a student lives inside their attendance zone, and they live with a legal guardian and they’ve enrolled in school on the first day of school, then they’re an enrolled student,” Luikart said. “There is no definition of being transferred from one place to the other.”
For the public, one of the sources of confusion is in relation to the FHSAA and the county. They aren’t the same organization, and while they work together to create athletic opportunities for students, they have different roles.
“The county is not determining eligibility,” Coss said. “They are deciding if they will allow the student to participate in sports. Some students still have to be ruled on by the FHSAA in addition to the county, so it is possible that a student is permitted to participate by the county, but ineligible by the FHSAA, and vice versa.”
Creating a policy and applying it can be two different things, and it’s the application that has concerned Luikart. It’s also the source for some degree of optimism.
Instead of expressing disappointment that the policy wasn’t changed or rescinded at the last meeting, Luikart feels like they’re working on a clearer explanation of how to apply it.
While nothing formal has been sent to the board to review, he’s heard that some adjustments in the procedures could be made. At that point he’ll review the adjustments and see if it fits with what he considers a fairer implementation of the policy.
In that regard, even though the policy is still in place and no changes to it were made, Luikart believes he got what he wanted.
“I thought I won,” he said. “My whole argument was that the process was flawed. The procedures were totally flawed.”
Published September 17, 2014
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