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Mike Vlahovich: Don’t blame transfer players for current rules

Thu., Sept. 20, 2007, midnight

This is a tale of opportunity and acrimony.

It seems at once to be the feel-good story of a transfer athlete making good on what is likely his one chance to start in varsity football.

It is also a story of the hard feelings that arise when athletes transfer schools, no matter the validity of their reasons.

Brandon Saiki, for three years a football player at Lewis and Clark, transferred to Freeman where, as a senior, he’s the starting quarterback. In three games he’s thrown six touchdown passes and the Scotties are 2-1 in the Northeast A League.

What complicates matters is that his younger brother Garrett also transferred, but to Ferris after spending his sophomore season playing substantially for the Tigers. He added injury to insult by scoring a 99-yard kickoff touchdown against his former team last week.

How, you may ask, can the brothers play for different schools? That obviously is the question being posed around unhappy LC.

Their father, Gary, provided an answer. He said that Garrett needed and was granted a transfer to Ferris because of personal troubles while at LC. Brandon, who had previously played behind two quarterbacks while a Tiger, is at Freeman, Gary said, because he wanted a chance to start. To do so, they moved into the district, he said.

As long as the rules are followed, you can’t blame a quarterback the opportunity to start by moving to another team if he most likely would have spent his final season on the bench. Who would deny that if parents feel the environment isn’t suitable for their youngster that it would be better for him to move?

Spokane Public Schools allows one in-district transfer without loss of eligibility. Washington Interscholastic Activities Association assistant executive director Jim Meyerhoff said that once attendance is established, a student remains eligible even if the family moves. Such moves do not address property ownership, Meyerhoff continued, only that the entire family unit resides in the district where a child is enrolled for him to be eligible there.

Thus, Garrett meets one criteria. Brandon, who went through requisite eligibility hearings, said Scotties coach Jim Wood, meets the other.

That the Saiki family is seeking the best for their children is their right. I understand the betrayal coaches might feel when a student they’ve put time and effort into transfers out, just as a young athlete might feel betrayed when a transfer takes his place.

But what happened this summer is not unprecedented. It goes back to what I’ve addressed before. The more ironclad a transfer rule is, the happier everyone would be. Spokane Public Schools could eliminate its transfer allowance. As some schools now do, a copy of a utility bill will offer proof of residence and make sure a move is made. If they wish and if legal, the WIAA Executive Board could pass a transfer rule making any player who moves ineligible for a year.

Until such time, as it has for years, the tale of transferring schools for a variety of reasons and opportunities is inevitable.


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