The PIAA is starting to take a tougher stance when it comes to transfer issues, and justifiably so.
The impetus for change was the controversial in-season transfers of several high-profile football players in the 2016 season.
The biggest stir was created when Micah Parsons, a standout and highly recruited defensive end and running back, transferred from District 3’s Central Dauphin to neighboring Harrisburg with just two games remaining in the regular season.
The late addition of Parsons, now enrolled at Penn State and projected to play linebacker, helped the Cougars advance to the Class 5A final before losing to Archbishop Wood.
Last November, a mandatary 21-day wait period for in-season transfers was in the works – but not ratified – when two-way lineman Tom Burns played a full season for Notre Dame High in Lawrenceville, N.J., and then joined Conwell-Egan for a pair of state playoff games.
Burns’ late appearance rightfully angered supporters and administrators from opposing schools.
In December, in a third and final reading in a meeting of the PIAA board of directors, the 21-day in-season transfer rule was ratified and to be placed on the books on July 1. An amendment passed last month moved it to April 1 to cover spring sports.
Controversy surfaced toward the end of the recently completed basketball season.
Diamond Johnson, a dynamic sophomore guard who averaged 33 points in 19 games at Virginia’s Phoebus High, transferred to Neumann-Goretti in February and was declared eligible for the PIAA girls’ tournament following a District 12 hearing on March 5.
With Johnson producing 14 points, the Saints, who were runners-up to Cardinal O’Hara in the Catholic League final, claimed their fourth consecutive state crown with a rout of District 7’s Bishop Canevin.
“Obviously, this situation raised a lot of people’s ire,” PIAA executive director Robert Lombardi said during the three-day state championships at Hershey’s Giant Center.
“To District 12’s credit, they kept her out of games and gave consideration to the 21-day transfer rule,” he added. “They followed our procedure, had a hearing, went through the vetting process, and heard testimony that was convincing enough to grant the player eligibility.”
But Johnson’s late arrival did prompt the PIAA to approve another amendment to its season-transfer rule.
The amendment states that any student-athlete who participated or was eligible to participate in 50 percent of the maximum number of regular-season games at his or her school cannot play at their new school for the remainder of the season.
Also, Lombardi said the PIAA board will meet next month to conduct a first reading of a proposed rule by the competition committee that would make a student-athlete that transfers at the end of his or her junior season ineligible to compete in postseason games at their new school as a senior.
“We’ve seen an awful lot of people transferring from School A to School B after their junior season, and it’s something the competition committee wants us to take a look at,” Lombardi said Friday. “It’s possible, but highly unlikely, that protocol could be suspended and the rule would go into effect at the start of next school year.”
And when it comes to the continued outcry from folks across the state who want the PIAA to separate playoff competition between public and private/charter schools, particularly in football and basketball?
“It’s contrary to the law,” Lombardi said last month. “We adhere to the 1972 law passed by the Pennsylvania General Assembly that states private schools are full members of the PIAA and there should be no segregation. If they want to change that law, we’ll follow it.”
How about the continued moaning regarding alleged recruiting by private/charter schools.
“We think our members are following the rules,” Lombardi said. “If it’s found out they’re not following the rules, there’s a process to bring forward the accusations.
“I’m tired of hearing rumors and innuendo, or people using a paintbrush to paint everybody the same way. I don’t think it’s right to do that.”