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FHSAA tightens transfer rules

One key decision and one non-decision came out of the Florida High School Activities Association Board of Directors meeting Friday.

The decision: Varsity athletes who do not change their residence but transfer to another school must sit out of competition for one year.

The non-decision: A motion to split the FHSAA into public-school and private-school competition was tabled and will likely be brought up again at the board's next meeting in August.

The rule on transferring is intended to reduce schools recruiting athletes from other schools. The rule also prevents any athlete who transfers to another school during the sports season (without changing residence) from playing that season.

Some FHSAA officials hoped the new rule would calm down the talk of splitting the public and private schools because it would cut down recruiting.

But board member Tim Starling, Superintendent of Schools in Baker County, in north Florida said direct recruiting is only one problem.

"Private schools have selective enrollment," Starling said. "When it comes to deciding a state champion, it's not fair to have to run a fast-break uphill. It is not a level playing field."

Starling and principals from small, public schools said it was not fair that their schools are restricted by zones, while private schools have open enrollment and (sometimes) financial scholarships.

A recent survey revealed that 64 percent of Florida's principals favored splitting private schools from public.

Several board memebrs said they were not comfortable making such a big decision without more time to gather information, and postponed the vote.

Other new rules and decisions made Friday include:

Schools will be classified next year in six classes, A to 6A. Class A schools are those non-football playing schools (now called Class B). In all sports but basketball, A and 2A schools will play together.

Preseason "classics" will be allowed in wrestling and volleyball, as long as a portion of the proceeds goes to the FHSAA. Football, basketball, softball and baseball had classics this year. A motion also was approved to stop counting the basketball classic games in won-loss records.

Cross country will be divided into five classes, instead of four. And girls invitational races can be 3 miles long, if approved by the commissioner.

The FHSAA said it is running short of money (because of legal fees and a court judgment against it) and will raise its membership fees 150 to 200 percent (up to $1,000) and increase playoff ticket prices (from $3 to $4 for districts).

The organization also moved its August meeting from its Gainesville headquarters to the Grenelefe Golf and Tennis Resort near Haines City. Despite some objections about the appearance of the move, FHSAA officials said lodging costs would be the same.

If a team pulls out of a district it was assigned to in any sport, the school will be penalized and not allowed to play in the district in every sport. The rule is the result of Northeast, Seminole and Countryside withdrawing from their football district with Manatee, Sarasota and Sarasota Riverview.