FHSAA transfer proposal scuttled

After much debate, students will not have to sit out a year of sports if they transfer.

Published October 29, 2006

SEFFNER - Bureaucratic meetings are not like sporting events. When there is a dramatic turn of events, the crowd does not stand up and roar. There are no celebratory dances, no scoreboards.

So, when Dudley Goodlette effectively struck down the FHSAA's attempt to impose new transfer laws Tuesday afternoon, the state representative was not greeted with cheers or boos, but with the silent resignation of attending FHSAA representatives, and the silent affirmation of those who have opposed the rule throughout the yearlong fight.

"You don't invest emotions in things like this," said FHSAA commissioner John Stewart, whose organization had been hoping to institute rules requiring transfer students to sit out a year of varsity sports. "You learn over the years that rules are made and you do your best to enforce them."

Right now, it looks like those rules won't resemble the ones the FHSAA had hoped to impose. Though the organization's representative assembly approved the change 44-8, the decision encountered heavy resistance from a vocal faction of private schools who claimed the bylaw violated state law protecting a student's right to school choice.

That resistance led the state legislature to create a task force to study the situation, which it has done since its inception in June.

In the first two meetings, Goodlette - the chairman responsible for submitting a final report of recommendations to the legislature - was primarily a mediator, facilitating discussion between panel's 12 other members (six opponents of the bylaw, six proponents). But 31/2 hours into Tuesday's meeting at Armwood High, he came down squarely in favor of the bylaw's opponents, saying "the adoption of the rule as it is now would be problematic" and lead to litigation.

Because Goodlette, R-Naples, is charged with making recommendations to the legislature on how to deal with the perceived problem of recruiting in the state, his words effectively killed the FHSAA's hope of seeing its bylaw take effect.

Stewart said his next step is to formally request that the representative assembly reverse its decision and strike down the transfer rules.

He told the task force that the best course of action now for the FHSAA would be to keep its existing rules governing transfers and recruiting in place.

The task force will meet once more, on Nov. 30, where it will draft its formal recommendations for the legislature. The recommendations will now focus just on curbing recruiting, and not athletic transfers, which is an important distinction.

"When the legislature took this step to form this task force, it showed there was some real concern that the bylaw did not jibe with state law," said Tampa Catholic football coach Bob Henriquez, also a state representative.