There are not many things that can make me choke while drinking a cup of water. Listening to a voice mail from quarterback guru Steve Clarkson did the trick.
Clarkson left a message with stunning news: He's now against high school students transferring for purely athletic reasons.
Clarkson has been a private coach for three decades, and his pupils have never been shy about abandoning programs for the promise of more exposure.
One of his first students was Perry Klein, who passed for nearly 4,000 yards as a junior at Palisades. He transferred to Carson in 1988, led the Colts to a City championship, got a scholarship to California, then moved back to Malibu to play volleyball for Santa Monica.
Another Clarkson protege around that time was quarterback John Walsh, who transferred from West Torrance to Carson, then went on to Brigham Young.
"It was a completely different era," Clarkson said. "You didn't have the Internet, the accessibility to combines and the exposure kids need. I could see their point."
It's 2007, however, and Clarkson has changed his thinking.
"It's unnecessary to move," he said. "They're being sold, 'We'll get you recruited, you'll play on a better team.' Here's what the parents don't look at. Do they have other siblings? What does that do? They're uprooting themselves from friends and neighbors. You have a sister sitting there, 'We all have to move?'
"Parents need to understand this is a different era, and there's a correct way to get what they want and stay true to their school. On the flip side, I do believe coaches have a responsibility to do more, to make sure kids are being educated and are being given the best chance to get to college."
Clarkson runs Air 7 QBU, which has eight camps nationwide for quarterbacks and receivers. Among his former clients are Matt Leinart, J.P. Losman and Jimmy Clausen, whose successes have helped make Clarkson an influential figure among parents and college coaches.
He decided to come forward with his change of heart because he knows it's transfer season, a time when parents are contemplating a change of schools for their children, thinking that's the way to ensure college scholarships.
"I've had a few kids ask about it," Clarkson said. "They don't see the negative. I've worked with so many kids I'm bound to have a kid involved in that situation. I've always taken the standpoint it's none of my business, but I've seen more transfers end up not good than good."
Even more troubling is that Clarkson said high school coaches or their representatives are recruiting players already enrolled at schools, which is a violation of CIF rules.
"You're seeing coaches who are so competitive they're recruiting high school players like a college recruits college players," he said.
The bottom line for players is that obtaining a college scholarship isn't decided by what high school they attend. It's based on individual talent and academic performance. And Clarkson said combines, scouting bureaus and private tutors make it possible for players to be recruited whether they are playing for an 0-10 team or a 10-0 team.
Clarkson said quarterback Scott Covington is an example of someone who didn't play on a winning team his senior year at Dana Hills Dana Point in 1993 and still got a scholarship to Miami.
"Here's a kid who was 1-9 and defeats the whole notion you have to go to a big program and win games before someone will look at you," he said. "College coaches are a lot more sophisticated than that."
The transfer game is about to receive a big boost. The CIF Federated Council is scheduled to vote next month on a rule that would give freshmen the opportunity to transfer without restrictions so long as they switch schools before the start of their sophomore year.
It's compromise legislation that is supported by CIF leaders because they're afraid the state Legislature might intervene with its own ideas about transfers.
The problem is the new rule could bring the Southern and City Sections back to the days when constant player movement fueled by weak transfer rules created animosity and suspicion among schools, setting the stage for abuse and manipulation of the rules.
It's good that Clarkson has come out against the notion of transferring for purely athletic reasons, but I'm afraid Pandora's box has already been opened.
*Eric Sondheimer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times