I’ve been told I’m good enough to get a scholarship of some sort, and I don’t think my family can afford to send me to college unless I do. But my high school program is really bad, and I’ve realized I need to transfer to have a better chance to get that scholarship I really need. I’ve just finished my freshman year – what are my options? —J.E., Hayward
How much time do you have?
The high school transfer rules are nothing if not complex, arcane and subject to manipulation at every level, but I’ll do the best I can in the space I get.
The North Coast Section web site (or any section web site) will have lots of information — hit the “Eligibility Transfer Information” link — but good luck plowing through the bureaucratese. Everything you need to know is there somewhere, but figuring out exactly what applies to you is no easy task.
We can begin with this, though: The easiest way, from the CIF standpoint, to transfer to another school is to move into its attendance area. If that happens, you’re immediately eligible — well, almost.
Here’s the first big red flag flying over any transfer, and it says “Undue influence.” That means if the section office gets your transfer application and decides that a coach or administrator from the school you want to transfer into influenced you into making the move, then you are ineligible for a full season.
“Undue influence” is an ambiguous phrase, so you’re at the mercy of the section office — and sometimes, those officials are more suspicious of some schools than others because of previous issues. They’ll also look to see if they think the transfer is “athletically motivated,” another no- no. In other words, if you transfer from a school that went 0-11 in football to one that went 11-0, then they could rule you ineligible for a year.
There are some hardship exceptions, which you can find on the websites, but if you don’t qualify under those nine categories, and since this would be your first transfer (you’ve just finished your freshman year), even if you don’t move, you can play varsity sports in your first season — after you sit out for a designated time. (If you play a fall sport, you wouldn’t be eligible to play, though you can practice, until Oct. 7; in the winter, the eligibility date is Jan. 6; in the spring, it’s April 7.)
Of course, even then you have to fill out loads of paperwork, and one item on there involves “pre-enrollment contact.” What that means is they’ll ask you and the school to which you’re transferring to list all contact with school personnel (such as coaches) prior to your transfer application. Just because you’ve said hello to the coach at the new school, or even worked with him at a camp, doesn’t immediately make you ineligible — but if you have had contact, and don’t list it in the transfer form, you’re out a full year.
But the best thing you can do is begin the process as quickly as you can. Sometimes the school you’re transferring to will move slowly, and that could make a big difference. As much as possible, take charge of the process, fill out the paperwork and follow up with your section to make sure you’ve done everything right. Hopefully you’ll be eligible immediately and in a place where your chances of a scholarship are much better.
Clay Kallam is an assistant athletic director and girls varsity basketball coach at Bentley High in Lafayette. To submit a question for Behind the Clipboard, email Coach Kallam at firstname.lastname@example.org
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