Canceling any high school sport could trigger rampant transfers

The CIF could be dealing with the issue of unlimited eligibility in 2021-22 if sports seasons are canceled in 2020-21.
The CIF could be dealing with the issue of unlimited eligibility for athletes in 2021-22 if sports seasons are canceled in 2020-21.

Get ready for the high school sports version of a robust college transfer portal in California if any sports can’t be played during the 2020-21 school year because of the coronavirus.

Under CIF rule 207.B.5.a, students who don’t participate in a sport over a 12-month period have unlimited eligibility and can switch schools with no penalties.

There’s real uncertainty whether football will be played at all this school year in Southern California after being delayed since last July. Southern Section commissioner Rob Wigod has said practices would need to start by Feb. 15 to have a reduced season ending by April 17. Under the state’s color-tiered reopening system, football can be played in counties in the orange tier, a tough challenge to reach by next month because many counties are in the far more restrictive purple tier.


While no football until the fall of 2021 would be devastating for the senior class, underclassmen would have the option of changing schools without the requirement of sitting out about a month for transferring without changing residences.

That absence of transfer restrictions could lead to an intriguing dynamic, since transfers are frequently made for sports reasons. Transfers have fallen dramatically this school year with no sports taking place. In the Southern Section, the total transfers from July through December was 1,123. For the same period in 2019, it was 4,967, a decrease of 77%.

“I think there’s going to be lots of transfers without restrictions,” Lake Balboa Birmingham athletic director Rick Prizant said.

Prizant said he would support awarding an extra year of eligibility to current seniors if their sports seasons are canceled. That’s a proposal that would need CIF approval.

Thirty-four states played high school football, including Colorado. An athletic director in the Rocky Mountain state said safety measures were effective.

Jan. 4, 2021

Top sports programs have consistently stayed powerful with the help of transfer students, thus avoiding rebuilding years. Those programs are likely to benefit most if seasons can’t get started this school year, thus giving parents options for 2021-22.

Section commissioners are motivated to try to get sports seasons going, knowing that canceling sports would create additional problems for 2021-22.