New World, New Needs

The core of our current transfer rule was debated by a predecessor organization 20 years before the Michigan High School Athletic Association existed, in 1904. The MHSAA’s first handbook stated the rule in 1925: a one-semester wait to play after a change of schools, unless accompanied by a residential change by the student and parents or guardians. A one-semester wait, with one exception.

In 1971, the number of stated exceptions went from one to twelve.

It’s in 1981 when sentiment seemed to shift toward a harder line when the exception from a “broken home” approved by both school principals was toughened to require a completed divorce decree and a form signed by both principals and the MHSAA executive director.

When the transfer rule was adopted, the world was different than today. In 1904, 1925, 1971, even 1981, it was both a different society and youth sports landscape.

There were many more three-sport athletes then than today and many more three-sport coaches. There were many fewer non-school youth sports programs then than now, and many fewer nonfaculty coaches. And, of course, there was no school of choice.

Increasing year-round single-sport specialization by both students and coaches; ubiquitous specialized sports camps, clinics, trainers, travel teams and leagues – where both students and parents are making friends; more reliance on drop-in, nonfaculty coaches for school teams; and expanding open enrollment laws have combined to change our world.

And they combine to suggest the need for more changes in the MHSAA transfer rule.


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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 45 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 nine years, and is a past-chair of the board of directors of the Michigan Society of Association Executives. He is chair of the board of trustees for the Capital Region Community Foundation for 2018.

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.