Representative: Proposed legislation wouldn't allow high school free agency

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Thu. March 28, 2013 | Matt Baker | Email

As he expressed concern that at least two state bills could lead to high school free agency, FHSAA executive director Roger Dearing used one attention-grabbing example:

An athlete could play football at one high school, transfer to a new school for basketball and transfer to a third to play baseball – all in the same year, under the proposed legislation.

“This allows student-athletes to transfer anytime they want,” Dearing told reporters in a Tuesday teleconference for the Florida High School Athletic Association.

But that’s not true, according to one of the bills’ authors.

“The scenario described by the FHSAA is a highly unlikely one which House Bill 1279 does not allow,” Rep. Larry Metz said in an email.

The Republican from Eustis who wrote HB 1279 said “common sense and systemic checks and balances” would keep that hypothetical from happening.

In an email to the Times, Dearing pointed to a section in Metz’s bill that allows all students to be eligible for high school sports as long as “the school district or private school approves the student residence or transfer.”

But Metz said HB 1279 – which was passed unanimously by a subcommittee last week – also lets the FHSAA set an eligibility deadline for mid-year transfers, which can’t be before the start of practice.

“(In) order to be eligible to play any sport the student must be registered at each school before the particular season starts for that sport,” Metz said in an email.

Overlapping sports calendars and an FHSAA transfer deadline would make it impossible to play three full seasons at three different schools. Two weeks of the football regular season remained when basketball practice opened on Oct. 31 last fall. Baseball teams could start practicing on Jan. 16, a month before the first round of the boys basketball playoffs.

Metz’s bill, and a similar senate bill by Sen. Kelli Stargel (R-Lakeland) would give more authority to school districts on approving transfers. Metz said that puts up another obstacle that would likely prevent a student from playing three sports at three different schools.

“Any school board applying common sense to those facts would realize that the same student is attempting to conduct multiple transfers in one academic year and they would likely deny the transfer requests and prevent this from happening,” Metz said.

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