June 24, 2018
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Committee suggests revisions to Maine Principals’ Association transfer, athletic eligibility policies

By Ernie Clark, BDN Staff

AUGUSTA, Maine — Several proposals addressing the relationship between Maine’s public and private high school athletic programs will get an airing before the Maine Principals’ Association Interscholastic Management Committee later this year.

An MPA ad hoc committee consisting of principals, assistant principals and athletic administrators representing public schools, private schools and town academies was formed for the first time since 2004 and held three meetings during the recently concluded school year.

The panel finished its work by offering what MPA Executive Director Dick Durost described as several “statements” on issues ranging from the recruiting of student-athletes to rules regarding student transfers.

“They weren’t necessarily unanimously approved by the ad hoc committee, but they wanted to put some things out there as food for thought,” said Durost.

The IMC accepted the ad hoc committee’s report and is expected to consider its conclusions in late September. The IMC could opt to take no action or send any or all of the proposals along to the MPA’s general membership for its consideration later this fall or next spring.

Among the ad hoc group’s conclusions was a proposal that a student who transfers without a corresponding change in residence by the student and parent(s) be ineligible for varsity competition for 365 days, with the possibility of an appeal process on a case-by-case basis.

A student in such a transfer situation currently is eligible to participate in interscholastic activities immediately if granted a waiver by the sending and receiving school principals.

“It probably would slow some transfers, especially those that draw suspicion as being for athletic reasons,” said Durost of the proposal. “The committee is looking for a way to deal with those suspicious situations without penalizing the 98 percent of the other cases when the student transfers have nothing to do with athletics.”

The stipulation that would make a transfer ineligible for varsity competition for 365 days would place Maine among the stricter states nationally in that category, according to a 2010 state eligibility comparison conducted by the National Federation of State High School Associations.

Waiting periods range from six days to a year in some states before a transferring student may begin varsity competition at the new school, depending on residency status.

“The ad hoc committee decided on about as strong a policy as there is across the country,” said Durost. “I think they thought if they put an extreme number on the table it would get the attention of the schools.”

The ad hoc panel also recommended that when a student-athlete does transfer, he or she must meet the more stringent eligibility policy between the sending and receiving schools in order to participate in interscholastic sports.

For example, if a student became ineligible to participate in a sport for academic or other reasons at a school where the penalty is to sit out for one semester and then transfers to a school where the penalty in a similar case is two weeks, the student-athlete would have to sit out for one semester based on the more stringent policy at the previous school.

“The committee just wanted to get away from the perception that someone could transfer from one school to another so they could regain their eligibility quicker,” Durost said.

The panel also recommended that any student on the roster of a non-MPA postgraduate or prep team at a MPA-member school would no longer be eligible to play for another team at the school in any MPA-sanctioned sport.

For example, an ice hockey player at North Yarmouth Academy, which competes in the New England Prep School Athletic Conference in that sport, would not be eligible to play on the school’s MPA-sanctioned soccer team in the fall or tennis team in the spring.

The feeling within the ad hoc committee, Durost said, was that such non-MPA affiliated programs as the NYA prep hockey team or the Lee Academy postgraduate basketball squad — which plays an independent, non-MPA schedule — attract elite athletes to their schools based on those specific teams, and having those athletes playing in other MPA-sanctioned sports might give those teams a competitive advantage not shared by other schools.

The ad hoc committee also urged that the MPA code of ethics be revised to state that member schools are responsible for ensuring that no one is recruiting on their behalf for athletic reasons, including students or their parents in situations where student-athletes from different schools are teammates in out-of-season sports programs.

The panel also stated its opposition to having separate public and private school competition.

The ad hoc committee hopes to meet at least once annually in the future, Durost said.

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