When it comes to transfers, the staff of the Michigan High School Athletic Association gets lots of advice, but it comes from opposing directions.

One camp thinks MHSAA rules are inadequate. This group suggests that we expand the basic period of ineligibility from approximately 90 days to 180 days and/or it wants the MHSAA to eliminate most or all exceptions that allow for immediate eligibility of a transfer student.

This first camp is so frustrated with high-profile athletic-motivated or related transfers that they want to clamp down on all transfers.

The other camp thinks parents have the right and responsibility to send their children to any school they wish and have immediate access to the full benefits of that school’s curricular and extracurricular offerings.

This second camp is encouraged by the laws of Michigan which have gradually extended “schools of choice” as an option that all school districts may exercise. And this camp will be emboldened if the Secretary of Education under the new regime in Washington, DC is the long-time schools of choice advocate who has been nominated by the President-Elect for this position.

This second camp is on the right side of history, no matter how much I dislike it and no matter how convinced I am that the better way to have improved public education would have been to invest more in neighborhood schools. Improving them builds most communities. Ignoring them, as we have for 25 years, sends surrounding communities into downward spirals that worsen poverty and public health.

The ill-advised efforts to improve education by enticing students out of their neighborhoods to attend schools elsewhere has undermined “local ownership” in schools; and it has had the side effect of encouraging more transfers motivated by or related to athletics. Monitoring and managing such transfers is made more difficult by these educational reforms; but the new world will not tolerate transfer rules that are seen as too broad and contrary to what has become public policy, however poorly conceived and executed.

The fact is, the future of the transfer rule will be less about extending its reach and more about retaining its existence.

Posted in: Transfers


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About the Author

Jack Roberts

Jack Roberts has been at the helm of the MHSAA as its Executive Director since 1986, implementing programs and overseeing tournament administration and regulations for the Association which boasts 1,500 member schools, 10,000 registered officials and 13,000 head coaches.

During the last 44 years, Roberts has spoken to educator and athletic groups, business leaders and civic groups in almost every state and five Canadian provinces. He is one of the nation's most articulate advocates for educational athletics.

Roberts has served on the board of directors of the National Association of Sports Officials (NASO), is in his second term on the board of the National Federation of State High School Associations, and is the first chairman of the NFHS Network board of directors. He has been board president for the Refugee Development Center for seven years, and is a past-chair of the board of directors of the Michigan Society of Association Executives. He is vice chair and secretary of the board of trustees for the Capital Region Community Foundation.

He is a 1970 graduate of Dartmouth College, where he played defensive safety for the Ivy League's winningest football team during that span, and he sang in Dartmouth's close harmony vocal group.

His wife, Peggy, has retired from a 30-year career in social services, and is serving as president of the board of the Fenner Nature Conservancy in Lansing.