ERIC SONDHEIMER / ON HIGH SCHOOLS

Transfer game picks up steam in CIF schools

The issue has been around for years, but a statewide rule that reduces the penalty for transferring without moving is giving people carte blanche to switch schools. Here's the question: Where's the outrage?

It's time for the California Interscholastic Federation and its member schools to have a philosophical debate on whether it should be easy or hard for athletes to switch high schools.

So far, there doesn't appear to be a whole lot of outrage in how schools are welcoming transfer students with open arms.

Transfers in large numbers have been happening in Southern California for years, but a 2012 CIF statewide rule that reduced the penalty for transferring without moving from one year to one month has given parents the green light to move without worrying about consequences.

It led to a scene Friday night that everyone can judge on their own whether it was a peek into the future.

About 600 excited fans crammed into a gym in Montebello to watch a basketball game for first place in the Camino Real League.

On one side of the court was L.A. Cathedral, which had nine transfers on its roster. The home team was Cantwell-Sacred Heart, which had six transfers. At one point, there were players from Brazil, Senegal and Serbia on the court at the same time.

Asked what it all means, Coach George Zedan of Cantwell-Sacred Heart said, "I'm not sure exactly. Basketball is a global game and the United States is the place to be and in the next 10 years, kids and families will try to get to the states. It's the same here locally. It's why you see kids changing schools in the middle of the year. It's pretty crazy."

Cathedral has three players from Downey Warren's league championship team from last season on its roster. Another comes from Apple Valley Granite Hills. Several are from Los Angeles Ribet, where Coach William Middlebrooks used to be the head coach. And they're all legal. None of the former schools involved lodged any complaint when given the opportunity on CIF transfer forms.

Clearly, parents are moving their sons and daughters to schools for sports reasons, and there needs to be a debate about the ramifications.

"The CIF made it less paperwork and less litigious by its 30-day sit-out period, and I think it's opened the gates for parents," Zedan said.

Some private schools are refusing to participate in the parental shopping around of their athletes. They are in the minority and how long they can hold out while staying competitive will be one of the intriguing stories in the coming years.

Basketball isn't the only sport producing movement of players. In case no one noticed, the Open Division champion in football, 16-0 Bellflower St. John Bosco had a starting lineup loaded with players who arrived as sophomores and juniors from other schools.

If everyone is comfortable in the direction the high school sports scene is headed, then sit back with your popcorn and watch the circus unfold. If not, you'd better speak up now, because time is running out when it comes to reversing course.

eric.sondheimer@latimes.com

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