Al Hart Staff writer
Section: SPORTS,  Page: C1

Date: Sunday, April 24, 1988


Just an eight-letter word. But use it in the company of high school athletic directors or coaches and their heads will turn in your direction as if you had said a four-letter word. Since the days of inkwells and one-room schoolhouses, students have transferred for a variety of family reasons. But many school officials are becoming increasingly concerned about the unusual number of transfers - many of them involving talented athletes.

Those officials say parents and students are "athletic shopping" - looking for the right playing situation for the athlete. And coaches and ADs say they are being used.

Colonie athletic director and basketball coach Dave Foust is a critic.

"It's getting ridiculous," Faust said. "It's almost like coaches are being held hostage now. Parents want to know how many minutes of playing time you can assure their son, how he would fit into your program."

Adds Mont Pleasant basketball coach Gary DiNola: "Darn right it's ridiculous - it's like musical chairs around here. Section II must be the laughing stock of the state."

Still other school officials, and parents of students who have transferred, say individual choices should not be questioned or denied.

"I don't like the transfer movement, but I just don't know how you go about enforcing a rule with a parent making a decision like that," said Jim Smith, Christian Brothers Academy athletic director and Big 10 basketball chairman. "Every rule has loopholes in it, and you always have extenuating circumstances. Who is going to tell a parent he can't transfer his child?"

Yet a good number of coaches and ADs say something must be done to preserve the perspective and integrity of high school sports. And, to prevent the type of exodus that happened at Troy's Catholic Central High School this winter.

Five members of last year's basketball team transferred: David Haver, Kevin McDonough and Andy McClure went to Shenendehowa (Haver and McDonough started); Lou Savoia and Keith Jacques transferred to Troy High and started.

"It's crazy," said Bob Weaver, CCHS basketball coach and athletic director. "I've exhausted my talking on it. It's been going on a long time, but lately there's more parent involvement than there's ever been. I think Section II has to come up with a better rule than what they've got now regarding transfers."

What is Section II, and how can rules governing transfers be made tougher?

Section II is one of 11 sections of the New York State Public High School Athletic Association. It is the largest of four scholastic associations in the state - the other three being the Public School Athletic League of New York City, the Alliance of Independent Schools and the Catholic High School Athletic Association.

In the current NYSPHSAA handbook, rules regarding transfers essentially state that a student who is enrolled in one high school may subsequently transfer no more than once during a school year without a corresponding change in the residence of his parents or guardians, unless the student has reached the age of majority and establishes residency.

Further, it states a student who transfers from one school to another becomes eligible 14 calendar days after starting regular attendance, and practices at the previous school may be counted toward the minimum number of practices required by the state, providing the principal or athletic director of the previous school submits, in writing, the number and dates of such practices to the principal or athletic director of the new school.

In essence, there is nothing to restrict transfers. A student can be enrolled at any public school, regardless of what district he lives in, as long as his parents pay the tuition to that out-of-district school. And, many parents are willing to pay the price to give their children better athletic opportunities.

Many school officials would like to see the transfer guidelines tightened, but it is unlikely that Section II will petition the NYSPHSAA for change. A new two-year handbook will be published in July, locking in the current regulations for that period of time.

"Right now, I don't think there's going to be any change," Section II president Ted Thomson said. Thomson is athletic director at Mont Pleasant.

"I really haven't received any written complaints about the subject,' he said. "There has been a lot of verbal complaining but nothing formal in writing. Unless enough people do (issue formal written objections or suggestions), I don't think anything will change."

Neither does Floyd Jones, assistant director of the NYSPHSAA staff in Delmar.

"There's nothing going on insofar as changing the language regarding transfers," Jones said. "If there is, the executive committee will announce it to the member schools."

One league, the Big 10, already has a policy regarding transfers between schools. It essentially states that a student who transfers from one Big 10 school to another Big 10 school becomes eligible to participate in interscholastic athletics after starting regular attendance in the second school, provided the transfer is made before the start of the school year.

If a student transfers within the first 15 days of the semester, he will be eligible the following semester (freshmen exempt; they become eligible 10 school days after date of transfer). If a student transfers within the first 15 days of the second semester he will be eligible the following semester. Otherwise, he will be ineligible for one calendar year from date of transfer.

Transfers during the school year are evaluated by the principals and athletic directors of the schools involved and, if agreed upon by both schools, the student can become eligible 10 school days after the date of transfer. Cases in question are evaluated by principals not involved in the transfer.

The 11-member Suburban Council might follow the Big 10's lead, thus giving Class A schools in Section II uniform transfer rules.

In other parts of the state, Section III (north-central area) already has its own transfer-eligibility rule, clarifying what is spelled out in the public school state handbook. The clarification became effective July1 of last year.

In essence, it states that any student-athlete who has participated on another high school team, or has not entered Grade 9, is eligible at his new school two weeks after starting classes provided:

*the transfer is during the first 15 schools days of the semester;

*the student is a resident of the school district. Otherwise, he/she will be ineligible until the starting date of the next semester.

It further states that a student-athlete who transfers after starting ninth grade is ineligible for interscholastic competition for one year from the date of registration in the new school, unless:

*the transfer is the sole result of a change in the legal residence of the student's parents or legal guardians, or;

*the transfer is the sole result of a court ordered adoption of the student or the court ordered change in legal guardianship, which results in a change in the legal residence of the student.

Also exempted are students emancipated from parents or legal guardians and having their own legal residence within the new school district.

Further, there is a clause stating eligibility will be granted if: "... there is no evidence that the transfer is for athletic purposes and/or has been in any manner influenced by athletic shopping or recruitment."

Something similar may happen in Section II.

But the change won't be easy.

Athletic discrimination. Lawsuits, anyone?

What happens when an athlete is prevented from transferring but a non- athlete is not? Smith, the CBA athletic director, said problems will mount no matter how the transfer guidelines are amended.

"You're setting up a situation where one kid can transfer and another can't because he's an athlete," Smith said. "Then you get into a real legal problem: Who's going to say - and how can you prove - the move was over athletics? I know something has to be done, but I also feel as a parent if there are choices available, you have the right to look into them."

So do some parents of students who recently transferred.

Take Linda Horlbeck and June Moore for example. Their children - Greg Horlbeck and Adam Moore - became centers of controversy this year by transferring during the basketball season.

In January, Horlbeck left Niskayuna for Linton, where he helped the Blue Devils improve during the latter part of the season. This was shortly after Moore left Hoosick Falls for LaSalle Institute and helped the Cadets finish tied for third in the Big 10.

Horlbeck, for most of his student life, attended schools in the Schenectady city school system but transferred to Niskayuna at the start of his sophomore year. Then, in the middle of his junior year, he transferred to Linton - his original school. Horlbeck now gives his grandmother's home in Schenectady as his place of residence.

If more stringent rules regarding transfers - which many school officials are now seeking - were in effect for this school year, Horlbeck would have been able to transfer, but conceivably would have had to sit out the remainder of the basketball season.

Linda Horlbeck doesn't think more rigorous rules would be fair to the student, and she opposes the current 15-day waiting period as well.

"Greg had to sit out for two weeks, and you'd have to know Greg to know what that does to a kid as dedicated to basketball as he is. The current two- week rule is enough of a punishment for a kid," Mrs. Horlbeck said. "In our case, if Greg couldn't have played this year (after transferring), he would not have transferred when he did. But I'm sure he would have at the end of the (school) year."

Linda Horlbeck said Greg's move back to Niskayuna was for academic and social reasons as well as athletic.

"I have very positive things to say about the Niskayuna schools in general, but this is a situation where Greg was going back where he originally was. He wasn't being recruited by Linton," Mrs. Horlbeck said. "It seems a little unfair that the (publicity) emphasis seemed to be too much on the sports aspect. From our point of view, we just found all-around that Greg was happier being back where he started."

Adam Moore, according to his mother, would never have gone to Hoosick Falls High School or LaSalle Institute if St. Mary's Academy of Hoosick Falls had been in operation. St. Mary's was closed by the Albany Roman Catholic Diocese in June of 1986.

But Moore, whose brother Jim had been a standout athlete for St. Mary's in 1981, enrolled at Hoosick Falls as a sophomore last year after being a student at St. Mary's his whole student life.

In the middle of this, his junior year, Moore transferred to LaSalle Institute. LSI's basketball coach is Joe Martelle, who formerly coached Moore's brother, Jim, at St. Mary's.

"When Adam left Hoosick Falls for LaSalle, it was for scholastic reasons first; the fringe (reason) was the coach (Martelle) and athletics," June Moore said. "The decision to go there was the best thing for him. The second day after transferring, he came home and said, 'Mom, everybody at LaSalle is for you.' He loves the school and the kids there. He's felt like that all along."

June Moore said that before conference and association officials consider amending the transfer wording, they should make sure "the greater emphasis is on the good of the child."

"As a parent, I think the No.1 factor should be what's the best thing for the student, not what's best for the coach or the school. It should be up to each individual school to make a decision on a transfer student - not an athletic association or a league," Mrs. Moore said. "Each case should be handled individually."

Tom McCarthy, basketball coach and athletic director at Guilderland, has prepared a statement on behalf of the Suburban Council that will outline the inconsistencies in the transfer regulations.

The final draft of the statement has been written, passed by the league athletic directors and been sent to the league's 11 principals for approval at their May meeting.

McCarthy described it as "more or less a philosophical statement regarding transferring and recruiting" combined with certain aspects of the current Section II language.

"Our goal is to take it to Section II," McCarthy said. "If it's something Section II doesn't want to deal with, then we'll have to take it to the individual leagues."

McCarthy is another outspoken critic against "athletic shopping" although he says it is only recently that he has come to oppose it.

"A few years ago when the league talked about amending the current transfer rule, I was strongly against changing it. I thought you had to be careful of parents' rights to send their kids where they want to," McCarthy said. "But the situation is at the point where the policy is being abused. It's getting to where kids are transferring not just for religious beliefs or a family situation, but simply because their son has a chance to maybe be a starting quarterback somewhere else. That's not right."

McCarthy, who is a member of the Section II basketball committee, said while he was at the state tournament this year, he heard more conversation about transfers than he did about the quality of the tournament.

Weaver, for one, says school officials are not without fault when it comes to this issue. He questioned the ethics of allowing a transfer to come right into the new program and play ahead of other students who have been there all along.

"All the coaches seem to be greeting these players with open arms," said Weaver, whose team, despite the numerous losses through transfers, still managed to get to the Class A Final Four at Glens Falls Civic Center where it lost to eventual champion Saratoga in the semifinals.

By contrast, some teams with transfer players didn't have great success - at least in terms of number of victories. One example was Troy High, which finished 4- 17.

A notable exception was Shenendehowa, where three transfers started, helping the team to the Class A championship game. (Gavin Vesp joined the team from West Genesee, McDonough and Haver from CCHS).

Coach Jim Zullo said he was very skeptical of what the addition of the new players would mean to his team.

"Initially, when I heard these boys were coming, I was very apprehensive about it," Zullo said. "I wondered how the other players would react and I wondered if the new players coming in would accept the fact that my teams stress unselfishness. But now that they're here, I'm glad. They're nice boys and they understand each player has a certain role. They've worked hard."

Obviously, the system has worked for some. For others, it remains a time bomb.

For everyone, it remains a choice: do school officials and coaches have the right to judge student transfers? Or do they have the right to change the rules to minimize this alleged "athletic shopping?"

School officials are dealing with the question. The answer may be forthcoming.

Tomorrow: Coaching stress: Parents and administrators turn up the heat in a society that stresses winning over participation.