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Despite a rampant number of transfers on an annual basis, New Jersey high school basketball remains the best sport to watch for many fans and writers and nothing on that count appears likely to change. (Photo by JR Parachini)

As Hoops Transfers Still A Plenty
Transfer Topic Remains Unsolved

By Steve Tober
for sidelinechatter.com

A brand-new season of New Jersey high school basketball season is about to commence, and for many of us who take in any number of different sports throughout the year it’s hoops that remains perhaps the best sport to watch in person.

There are many closely-contested games played in terrific atmospheres in hot gymnasiums that bely the chill of the cold winter months and the entertainment value can be first rate.

The only thing is, as either a fan or a sportswriter, you’d better double check and see if the public or private school you’re most interested in still has its best underclassman player from last season in the building since the endless number of transfers simply keeps on keep’in on; and it’s not just from a public to a parochial/private powerhouse since a few Catholic school kids also make the move to  what they perceive is a more beneficial private school hoops setting.

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

And, not to dwell on the recent past; but 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 then 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 three years 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 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.

Then, in April of 2017, there was another attempt by the NJSIAA member schools to deal with the transfer issue, one which was a 3-pronged approach that included in addition to the 30-day sit out period, a stipulation that those who transferred on or after the first scrimmage or first regular season game would be barred from the state tournament as well.

And, that 2017 proposal would have also included that athletes who transferred more than once would be barred from state tournament play while also having to sit out the mandatory 30 days for changing schools.

However, the acting Commissioner of Education at the time, Kimbverley Harrington, overturned that updated transfer rule proposal less than three months after the NJSIAA's executive committee had overwhelmingly approved what would have been a new rule.

So here we are, still. And, if those two proposals can't get through the entire process for approvals, what can?

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, as part of their plan, 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 three years 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; however, it would have hit harder than anything in place right now, and it would have forced transfers from one non-public to another non-public 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 was that a special public/non-public committee will have to convene for further discussions concerning the on-going transfer topic.

We saw what happened in April of 2017 thanks to the Acting Commissioner of Education not going along with new legislation.

So now we’re still waiting, and probably will wait again for some time it appears.

Meanwhile large crowds will continue to flock to see the elite level 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       

Junior Jabri Abdur-Rahim, who last year was starring over at the Tracey Gym in West Orange for Seton Hall Prep, is now playing at Blair Academy where he will apparently finish out his high school days. (Photo by Richard Morris/SHP)

Michael Ramos (right), who eclipsed the 1,000-point plateau during his junior season at Bloomfield High School last winter, has transferred for his senior year to The Patrick School in Hillside. (Photo by Gene Nann)

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