Knights lose players to transfer rules, focus on feeder schools


Illustration by Tyler Jones

By Alex Langan and Henry Smalley

Atlanta Public Schools ruled three would-be Knights transfer football players ineligible hours before the first game in August against rival North Atlanta, forcing them to withdraw  because they lived outside the school’s attendance zone.

The transfer issue in Georgia high school sports, particularly football, has tilted the playing field in favor of powerhouse programs.

Grady officials determined the transfers were not legitimate on the day of the first football game. The three players were ruled ineligible and forced to transfer elsewhere. At least one of the three now start for Tucker, the top ranked team in Class 6A.

“The school looked into their living situation and didn’t believe that it was a legitimate move,” Athletic Director John Lambert said of one of the athletes. “The mother and father did not move, only the father and son moved.”

In order for the move to be official, the whole family must move, according to the Georgia High School Association.

“You look at the constitution and bylaws [to see if the move is legitimate],” GHSA executive director Robin Hines said. “The whole family and [the athlete] have to show proof of residences.”

In 2014, the district and GHSA sanctioned the team and forced out of zone players to transfer after an investigation revealed several players lived out of district. Since then, Grady’s registration procedures have been strict in order to avoid harsher penalties than the one-year postseason ban handed down by the GHSA.

Last year, Class 7A football state champions Grayson had five transfers from the top 100 prospects in Georgia, with four coming from the top 25. One, current Michigan running back Kurt Taylor, transferred from Newton to play for the Rams. Taylor received significant media attention when Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh visited his house in January; however the visit was to the house he allegedly moved from to attend Grayson. Later, Taylor transferred back to Newton. GHSA, however, did not enact any punishments and did not rule Taylor ineligible. GHSA declined comment on the issue.

Lambert believes transfers will happen. In order to remain competitive, Grady must strengthen sports programs starting with its feeder school, Inman Middle School.

“The best way to combat other schools using transfers is for us to get kids from feeder programs into sports at a younger age,” Lambert said. “That way, we can compete with those schools without using any athletic transfers at all.”

Other football powerhouses, including Buford and private schools, have an advantage over regular public schools because they can offer admission to their institutions, regardless of the student’s residency status. Coupled with this, strong coaching staffs and well-funded sports programs make them a prime destination for the top athletes in the state.

Georgia Board of Education chair Mike Royal and others are advocating for a petition by the Georgia Coalition for Fair Play, a group of parents from Glynn Academy, to make a player sit out a year, unless they get written permission from their old coach to verify the transfer is legitimate. The petition also entails that GHSA requires all athletes to submit proof of residency each year, and if a player is found ineligible, that school should forfeit all wins and profits.

In May, GHSA caved to outside pressure and began to discuss a regulation that would require athletes to sit out half of the regular season unless they can prove they made the transfer for non-athletic reasons. However, this motion failed by a 62-2 vote by the GHSA Executive Committee. GHSA, however, says it does not plan to make any changes to existing rules and bylaws.

Lambert believes the fairest system would be to allow students choice of school.

“In certain states, as long as a kid can get back and forth to school without being tardy or absent, they don’t mind,” Lambert said. “I kind of like that rule, but the Georgia High School Association is different. It makes it an even playing field.”

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