Grabbing Game-Changers

The Michigan High School Athletic Association has not been standing still while the athletic transfer situation has devolved into an eyesore for educational athletics.

Twenty years ago (1997), the association adopted a rule that extended from one semester to 180 scheduled school days the period of ineligibility in all sports for a student whose primary reason for changing schools is alleged and confirmed to be athletics.

In 2014, dissatisfied with the infrequency of that rule’s use and the difficulties it created between schools, the association adopted the “links” rule – the athletic-related transfer rule. This extended ineligibility from one semester to 180 scheduled school days in a particular sport when a non-school experience in that sport links the student to the school team to which he or she is transferring.

The newer rule has been easier to use. It doesn’t require that an allegation be made by the administration of the school from which the student is transferring. It has been less likely to pit one school against another, but more likely to pit parents against the MHSAA.

The new rule has been best used as a deterrent before a student transfers . . . a warning. But the rule is of no use if one of the 15 exceptions that provides for immediate eligibility applies – for example, if there was a full and complete change of residence.

That is a gap that gnaws at those who want to nab the “game changers” – those transfers who add to the status of one team while dashing the dreams of another.


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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.