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Wayne Hills, a near annual football playoffs championship contender, became focus of news a few weeks back following differing rulings regarding a trio of brothers who had transferred to the school back in 2015. The topic was hot for a while and also brought back into the forefront the ongoing discussion about transfers and legislation, including regarding a vote last December where the state's schools voted down a proposal to change rule. (Photo by Todd Mundt)

Year Removed From Key Vote
Transfer Topic Is Still Hot Issue

By Steve Tober

All the recent controversy about three brothers who play football at Wayne Hills, who were ruled ineligible one moment and then declared eligible a few days later after a formal hearing, is an important case to reflect on, perhaps; however, that soon-to-be-forgotten situation is no where’s comparable to the endless array of transfers in boys basketball around the state, a situation which will simply continue without abeyance because the powers that be will not do what would have to be done to combat what has made the elite level of Jersey high school hoops really not much more than a glorified 3-month winter AAU season.

The next hoops transfer to any one of the top powerhouse programs in the state is getting set to jump on board wherever he wants to be and become that school’s next star, and why not?

Nothing – it appears – will slow down the trend that has hit its fever pitch in Jersey balling during the past half dozen years.

One can still reflect on a December, 2015 vote by member schools of the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) who decided not to change the mandated sit-out time for transfers that do not have a bona fide change of residence from 30 to 45 days.

But, even with the creative ideas that that were originally initiated by two athletic directors from North Jersey, nothing ultimately amounted from the entire episode to attempt to change the transfer rule, and – in looking to the future – the problem may never be addressed in a thorough and effective manner in this state.

The Dec. 1, 2015 vote, 139-98, against the proposal originated by athletic directors Bill Edelman of Vernon and John DiColo of Jefferson, also included a stipulation that would have made transfers ineligible for the state tournament.

The negative aspect of what was apparently a revised legislation package from its original form would have also included sub-varsity athletes being affected in terms of their transferring and having to sit out; and that was a fateful addition to the package put forth since athletic directors and principals do not want to support anything that penalizes individuals in home district public schools with no ties to the frequently-sordid parochial hoops power structure, and who simply transfer for various legitimate reasons.

Edelman and DiColo had an initial idea that had great substance, but it went in another direction before it was presented to general membership for its fateful vote a year ago, and the proposal put forth in the end was not the final product that could have garnered a vote in the affirmative as far as making transferring for athletic purposes less desirable.

To get a vote with any true hammer on the subject of curtailing mega hoops transfers through the gauntlet of well-meaning ADs voting, it has to be clearly stated within the legislation that there will be no penalties for younger, sub-varsity kids, or for those seeking to return to public schools in their home districts for legitimate and frequently economic-related reasons.

The now almost-forgotten proposal by two well-meaning ADs - who were refreshingly thinking out of the box – may have been voted down by member schools, but there remain a number of public school ADs and coaches – and some from the rule-abiding private schools – who are at their wits end as far as realizing they will probably never see any true curtailing of the rogue nature of certain vagabond hoops transfers in Garden State high schools.

The idea of reinstituting the 1-year sit out period – which existed from 2008 through the spring of 2010- continues to have its merits, but is ultimately not realistic for today’s understaffed NJSIAA because of the exhausting and unworkable legal appeals process - including inevitable hearings with students’ lawyers and school representatives - created in part because of several transfers from privates/parochial to public schools doing so due to legitimate economic and/or other family-related reasons.

The 30-day sit-out time for transfers who played in a varsity game at their previous school also has its flaws mainly in the fact people will cheat or connive in various ways with fake or shady, makeshift addresses in their newly-desired high school district just to play ball at a certain school and in the process simply try and beat the system for their own good.

Jefferson’s DiColo and Vernon’s Edelman had a sound idea initially, and one which would have placed transfers into three groups:

In a nutshell, those going from a public to non-public or ‘choice’ school without a bona fide change of address would have to sit out 45 days for each sport and also not be able to participate in the state tournament

Those leaving a Non-Public or choice school and heading to another non-public or choice school, would in turn also sit out 45 days and also miss the state tourney regardless of an address change or not.

Then, there are those who go from non-public or choice schools to their hometown public school district. They would be eligible to play at their new school right away.

Fairly simple and direct, the DiColo/Edelman plan was submitted to the NJSIAA and then went through the long and arduous process as revisions were made right on through to the vote that occurred a year ago, only in its final version, there were enough inherent flaws to stop the majority of the state’s ADs from voting for it.

The DiColo/Edelman plan may not have been a perfect remedy, and it doesn’t wield the weight of a 1-year sit-out period for transfers; but, it would have hit harder than anything in place right now, and it would have forced transfers from one non-public to another to miss his or her state tournament, and that would have been impactful indeed.

Word following the Dec. 1, 2015 vote that defeated the Edelman/DiColo plan is that a special public/non-public committee will have to convene for further discussions concerning the on-going transfer topic.

We’re still waiting.

Meanwhile large crowds will continue to flock to see the likes of St. Anthony, Roselle Catholic, The Patrick School, Pope John and other select parochial/private basketball bastions in that exclusive hoops stratosphere, excited to see the stars of those teams, a few of whom have been transfers, and will one day be among the college stars in many of the major conferences across the country.

It’s really just part of a self-fulfilling prophecy, and not enough of the powers that be in Jersey high school sports have either the stamina or fortitude to stand up against what has transpired with some questionable transfers through the years; but –then again- there are great games to see which will continue to draw huge crowds, and that’s what continues to interest most folks anyway.

Follow Steve Tober on Twitter @Chattermeister

There are now numerous, elite private and parochial hoops teams in New Jersey that at least occasionally benefit from transfers into their programs. Here, Blair faces Hudson Catholic in last winter's Tip-Off Classic at Caldwell U. (Photo by Vinny Carchietta/MCV Photography)


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