There's something strange about receiving the same memorized response from CIF commissioners whenever the issue of transfers comes up. They repeat their line like it's a Miranda warning:
"The 16,595 transfers in California last school year represent less than 2% of the more than 800,000 students who play high school sports."
Translation: There's no crisis. The numbers aren't skyrocketing. Player movement has been going on for years. The change in rules of having a student sit out a month instead of a year for transferring without moving is no big deal.
All that is probably true, but let me offer a different perspective. In case after case, at the highest level of competition in Southern California, transfers are affecting teams in football and basketball at an unprecedented level.
A look at The Times' top 25 football rankings found 100% of the schools had an impact transfer, someone who showed up from another school, earned a starting spot and became an important contributor.
Top-ranked Santa Ana Mater Dei needed defensive help. So one of the top linebackers in the Southland, Solomon Tuliaupupu, showed up this season from Claremont. Mission Viejo needed a quarterback. So Joey Yellen, a backup at Bellflower St. John Bosco, came to lead the Diablos to a 9-0 record.
San Juan Capistrano JSerra is 7-1 thanks to help from running back Al Fisher, who came from Paramount. Quarterback Matt Corral left Westlake Village Oaks Christian for Long Beach Poly, which is running away with the Moore League title. San Clemente is unbeaten with quarterback Brendan Costello, who was at Santa Margarita and Mission Viejo.
Narbonne needed a running back and Jermar Jefferson arrived from Redondo. Calabasas receiver Mycah Pittman came from Oaks Christian.
On and on it goes. Come Jan. 1, 2018, when basketball transfers who had to sit out the first month of the season become eligible, lots of top teams will get a dramatic boost.
Chatsworth Sierra Canyon will have five transfers in its starting lineup that came from Studio City Harvard-Westlake, West Hills Chaminade, Florida and Michigan. Fairfax, Westchester, Mater Dei and Culver City all have top transfers.
There's really no solution to this trend, nor is there a villain to blame. There was no choice but to liberalize the rules. There was too much money being wasted on lawyers and court costs. But let's not hide from the truth about the impact of free agency in high school sports.
Southern Section Commissioner Rob Wigod and others say if schools want to reduce transfers, go back to the old days, when athletes had to sit out a year when they didn't move.
But in a September commissioner's message entitled, "Transfers — A Reality Check," Wigod wrote, "That potential bylaw would encounter stiff resistance from the California Legislature, who authorizes the CIF to administer high school sports in our state, and would also face significant legal challenges as well."
So he concluded, "In looking forward, there will always be students/parents who are looking to transfer schools for various reasons. The important thing for us to do is to acknowledge that reality and understand it."
The reality is that winning programs will keep getting transfers. There's no way to stop it unless something illegal can be proven, such as recruiting, using a false address or following a coach to a school.
The Southern Section and City Sections have turned to creating competitive equity playoffs, putting the ambitious schools in the highest division regardless of enrollment.
"Families get choices, so how do we create fair competitions? Let them play other schools benefiting from impact transfers," said Roger Blake, executive director of the CIF.
Times have definitely changed. Some think for the better; others for the worse.
Impact transfers among The Times' Top 25 high school football teams
Rk. School; Pos./Player (former school)
1. SANTA ANA MATER DEI; LB Solomon Tuliaupupu (Claremont).
2. CORONA CENTENNIAL; DB Chris Venable (King).
3. ST. JOHN BOSCO; WR Devon Cooley (Buena Park).
4. MISSION VIEJO; QB Joey Yellen (St. John Bosco).
5. CHAMINADE; LB James Thomas (Alemany).
6. JSERRA; RB Al Fisher (Paramount).
7. UPLAND; DB Jaden Dedman (Oak Hills).
8. RANCHO CUCAMONGA; LB Roy Wiley (Montclair).
9. LONG BEACH POLY; QB Matt Corral (Oaks Christian) .
10. SAN CLEMENTE; QB Brendan Costello (Mission Viejo).
11. SANTA MARGARITA; QB Josiah Norwood (Troy).
12. SERVITE; DB Titus Toler (Mater Dei).
13. ORANGE LUTHERAN; WR Kyle Ford (Servite).
14. VALENCIA; DB Mykel Wright (Antelope Valley).
15. NARBONNE; RB Jermar Jefferson (Redondo).
16. PARACLETE; QB Brevin White (Chaminade).
17. EASTVALE ROOSEVELT; Randy Rivera (Chino Hills).
18. HERITAGE; QB Devan Freedland (Norco).
19. CHARTER OAK; DB Tavian Jones (Diamond Ranch).
20. SIERRA CANYON; DB Daniel Kamulali (Chatsworth).
21. BISHOP AMAT; WR Koby Duru (Diamond Bar).
22. CALABASAS; WR Mycah Pittman (Oaks Christian).
23. OAKS CHRISTIAN; DE Kayvon Thibodeaux (Dorsey).
24. LA HABRA; DB Clark Phillips (St. John Bosco).
25. MURRIETA VALLEY; RB Jordan Murry (King).