Roosevelt Head Coach Renaldo Thomas talks with his team moments before tip-off against Andrean during their boys basketball game at Andrean High School Monday, November 19, 2012, in Merrillville, Ind. | Scott M. Bort~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: January 24, 2013 6:47AM
Since the Indiana High School Athletic Association and high schools across this great state do a lousy job of informing student athletes about their rights — or lack thereof — when it involves a transfer, yours truly is going to lay down some fundamental principles that parents need to get self-educated on before they make a move for their son or daughter.
A student athlete has to have signatures from both the sending athletic director and the receiving athletic director to be granted full eligibility to play. The IHSAA has four options when reviewing transfers. They can grant limited eligibility for a year, no eligibility for a year, immediate eligibility or rule someone temporarily ineligible.
The IHSAA has ruled on 3,142 transfer cases this year and 83.64 percent were given full eligibility, 6.81 percent were given limited eligibility, 8.66 percent were temporarily ineligible and 0.89 percent were ruled ineligible.
If both the sending and receiving athletic director sign for full eligibility, the student athlete is automatically granted full eligibility. If either athletic director recommends a different form of eligibility, the IHSAA almost always will defer to that recommendation. So, if the sending AD recommends limited eligibility, that is what the student-athlete will get every single time.
Most administrators that protest transfers do it under the auspice of Rule 19-4, which sites recruiting or undue influence as the reason for the move.
The majority of athletic directors have a policy of signing off on athletic transfers.
It’s always a good idea to call the AD and ask if he/she will sign off on the athletic transfer before making a move. Principals and ADs owe it to parents to have an honest conversation about their policy on signing off.
Don’t ever assume school administrators will sign off on a move.
Unfortunately, the power structure for granting eligibility resides completely with the school if a student transfers but doesn’t move. And even if he/she does move sometimes, too.
If a student is ruled ineligible, it is highly unlikely that an appeal to the IHSAA will reverse the ruling. All the people hearing the appeal are school administrators who are aligned with the IHSAA.
A better outcome for reversal of a bad decision rests with an appeal to the Department of Education, which is completely non-partisan. They will listen to both sides of the dispute and then make a call. Students are required to appeal with the IHSAA first before moving onto the DOE. They have seven days to appeal to the IHSAA.
The latest heartbreaking case about a student who was denied eligibility involves LaDontaz Tolbert of Lew Wallace. Tolbert’s mother, Sharethia Tolbert, pulled LaDontaz out of Wallace during the first month of school after a gun was pulled on him while walking home from school. She did it for all the right reasons: He was struggling in school with a GPA of 1.3 and she feared for his safety. Sharethia made the move believing that LaDontaz, who played last year for the Hornets, would get to play for Roosevelt this year.
Kids come and go all the time in Gary. Most coaches accept that as fact. That’s why Sharethia was stunned when Wallace principal Latanza Boarden recommended no eligibility. Sharethia said the issue is Roosevelt coach Renaldo Thomas. Lew Wallace didn’t want LaDontaz playing for Thomas’ Panthers.
“If it was another school, like Lighthouse or West Side, we wouldn’t have had that problem,” she said.
Sharethia also said that Lew Wallace administrators tried to talk her into keeping him at school because he was a good player. She didn’t want to, even though he wanted to move. She feared for his safety and she was worried about his grades. His grades are up above a 3.0 now, but he can’t play or practice.
Sharethia is hoping that he will be granted a hardship status, meaning that his eligibility will be restored on appeal.
I hope so too, for LaDontaz’s sake, but it’s too late for the family to count on it. Their fate is out of their hands now, a fact that Sharethia has had to grudgingly accept. No matter what happened, though, Sharethia was going to take her son out of Wallace. She just felt like it wasn’t safe for him anymore.
“I just didn’t think it worked like this,” she said. “I just didn’t have knowledge of it. Now, they’re taking away what he loves to do best.”
Sadly, that is true.