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Movie The Needle – Burney Tries To Solve The Transfer Problem

By: Scott Burnstein, January 17, 2018, 11:36 am
With the Thomas Kithier situation pretty much resolved with last week’s court ruling, it’s time for the MHSAA to finally get its arms around the state’s transfer epidemic. And make no mistake about it, what we have going on throughoutthe state, in almost every major sport, has reached epidemic proportions. It’s not just boys basketball and it’s not just with high-profile, Division I college-bound athletes like Kithier, the Clarkston hoopster and Michigan State signee who transferred from Macomb Dakota in the summer and was ruled ineligible by the MHSAA for making the move across county lines for athletically-motivated reasons (his relief sought from the courts to try and salvage the second half of his senior campaign was rejected by a federal judge back on Thursday).
First, the MHSAA and its administrators need to admit there is an issue at hand that needs to be dealt with immediately – the installation of the “links rule” a few years back has done virtually nothing to cease what I categorize as, for lack of better phrasing, a full-on free agency frenzy. From my talks with MHSAA personnel over the past few years, it’s apparent to me they believe the transfer issue isn’t an issue at all. They are of the opinionthat the transfers you hear about and draw outrage are the exception rather than the rule and that most of thetransfers that occur are for the right reasons and not centered around athletics.
Well, just judging by the eye test, that’s simply not the case. I’ve been made aware of literally hundreds of transfers (yes, you read that number correctly) that are clearly motivated by athletics having occurred in the past several years. Just look at the college recruiting boards in the state – practically every year, in basketball and football alone, more than half of the state’s Top 25 prospects are at different schools than they began their respectively high school careers at. That’s not accounting for the vast amount of non-heavily recruited athletes that matriculate from one school to another for a variety of reasons, including the prospect of more playing time, more touches or just because their previous team or coaching staff wasn’t to their liking at that particular moment.
There was a football team about five years ago boasting 21 transfers out of its 22 starters. I know the MHSAA is not flush with resources. I know they can’t spend all of their time investigating every school or program not reported. But come on. If you read that fact in a preseason preview, you’re telling me it doesn’t warrant a closer look and some type of action? Sometimes when it quacks like a duck, walks like a duck and swims like a duck…..it’s a duck. Mere common sense tells you that.
Why is Kithier being punished, when there are literally dozens of Kithier-type situations every year and those players don’t have to sacrifice significant time on the court (if any at all)?  The MHSAA would tell you that in Kithier’s case, his former school blew the whistle and in those other cases, the players’ former schools acquiesced. Honestly, that’s not the right answer to me, nor the right approach. You shouldn’t need to have a whistle blown. All you have to do is read a preseason preview and count the amount of fresh faces on each team. Believe me, it’s staggering. And that doesn’t encompass mass resources – it takes a little time at the start of every season to monitor the behavior of the student athletes you govern.
So how do we go about fixing this problem?
The MHSAA, as I see it, has two options:
First, you can just accept the situation for what it is and admit it’s nearly impossible to police by simply officially opening up the floodgates – remove any rules regarding transfers. Let kids move and change schools at will. It’s already the Wild West, so let it be the Wild West, minus the current flaccid parameters. Basically, give into the trend and let it be a free-for-all.
Or you can do what I would do – implement an automatic one-year sit for every transfer no matter what (with a select few, highly-monitored exemptions). Then, if someone’s going to move teams (accuse me, schools lol), they’ll have to be some real thought put into, a sincere cost-benefit analysis done by the athlete and his/her family,  because the consequences won’t be light. If a whole year sit isn’t a deterrent than I don’t know what is. For all intents and purposes, there’s a ZERO deterrent factor right now and that’s fueling the epidemic at its core. 
Whatever needs to be done, needs to be done soon. The problem is getting bigger every year and we can’t keep ignoring it.