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NJSIAA: Proposed transfer penalty aired

Fairness to non-public schools questioned

ROBBINSVILLE – Two athletic directors took direct aim at non-public and choice schools Wednesday, making a proposal to the NJSIAA to lengthen the time athletes must sit after transferring to a non-public or choice school from 30 to 45 days while banning them from competing in the postseason.

Calling transfers an issue with “national implications,” Jefferson athletic director John DiColo and Vernon AD Bill Edelman also proposed that athletes who transfer from a non-public or choice school to a public school become eligible immediately for all competition rather than sitting the 30 days required under the current rule for all athletes.

“This is an issue that we’re trying to take head-on,” DiColo told the association’s advisory committee. “What we’ve found is that kids are willing to sit the 30 days. If they’re going to miss three-quarters of the season and there is no postseason eligibility, it makes it more significant.”

When Old Tappan athletic director Tom Kaechele pointed out that non-public athletes would in effect be penalized twice by sitting, playing a couple of weeks, then sitting out the postseason, DiColo responded, “I’m not concerned about the school that’s taking my athlete.”

“Can they spell discrimination?” Immaculate Conception athletic director Jeff Horohonich said. “Why is it OK for a kid who leaves a non-public for a public to get to play, while a kid who goes the other way can’t? It’s ridiculous.”

Transfers took center stage in front of the advisory committee, which also heard a proposal from the Big North Conference to allow out-of-state residents who play on the high school level as seventh- or eighth-graders in their states to retain their full eligibility under the association’s eight-semester rule after a bona-fide move into New Jersey.

Both proposals, along with an administrative move to tweak how schools are classified by group size, were approved by the advisory committee and will be reviewed in May by the executive committee.

If approved by the executive committee, a proposal goes on the agenda for a vote by the full membership in December.

If the executive committee rejects a proposal, the sponsor can still get the proposal on the December agenda if 20 athletic directors sign off on it.

North Jersey officials on both sides of the public and non-public debate questioned the fairness of the proposal by the Jefferson and Vernon athletic directors.

“Trying to be objective, there has to be some fairness in any ruling,” said Demarest AD Greg Butler, who has coached on both sides of the issue. “I understand the concern of non-public coaches.”

“Why does somebody have to sit going one way but not sit going the other?” said Bergen Catholic athletic director Jack McGovern. “If you can transfer one way, you should be able to transfer the other.”

Paramus wrestling coach Steve Klass, whose team competes in a region dominated by non-public programs, agrees transfers are an issue that should be addressed but doesn’t believe that the new proposal is the answer.

“That seems a little steep,” he said about the 45-day sit and no postseason. “I can see where [transfers are] getting out of hand. The bigger issue we need to discuss is why.”

“The bottom line is you’re hurting the kid,” Horohonich said. “They’re 14, 15, 18 years old. What kind of decision can they make at that age?”

Horohonich proposes that athletes be allowed to transfer once without penalty. If they choose to transfer again, they should sit a year.

“This is never going to go away,” he said. “No matter what they decide to do, people aren’t going to be happy.”

Email: schutta@northjersey.com

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