War Games – The Only Winning Move (1983)

(8-21-17) There is at least one high school athletic association in every state in the union to govern and oversee the running of athletics. One issue that they all face is the rampant attempts and abuse of the transfer rules.  Each state has them, but none of them are the same and most will tell you they really don’t get the job done.

The old saying comes into play when it comes to transfer situations, ‘rules are made to be broken‘. For every rule that every state incorporates or adds to handle the situation, those who really want to transfer find a way to get around them.

One problem that is new to high school athletics is the ‘super‘ schools that have been formed around the US, they recruit and bring in the best athletes from around the country to play for them, those schools do not belong to any state association and that allows the athlete to begin playing with no issues or reprimands. The number of these type of schools continue to pop-up all over the country and even in Canada. How do state association schools (public and private) compete with those ‘super‘ schools in keeping their athletes at home?

When a state association athlete transfers to a new school, they fill-out numerous forms, the schools fill out forms and then all of those forms are sent to the association for review.  The association assumes that all involved are being honest and truthful with the information on the forms. The association reviews the forms and decides if they are approved or the athlete is ruled ineligible. The majority of associations don’t have the time, money or resources to actually do on-site work or talk those involved with the request on each filing they get.

Each state has different rules on the acceptance of a transfer student that can make them eligible, ineligible for a year or the transfer is not approved for any time. Some states have made adjustments, sitting out so many games before they can play for their new schools, allowed to transfer from a private to a public or a public to a private one time during their four years, etc.


Residence rules have been a big part of the transfer process, mainly the abuse of them and how to get around them. This part brings out a lot of creativity from parents who really want their children to play at the school ‘suited’ for their educational well-being. Moving in with grandpa, renting a house in a nearby district, even giving up parental control to someone in the district.

The one elephant in the room is the presence of the AAU in these situations, AAU coaches, who also coach high school teams, seem to like to bring players who play for them in the summer to play for them during the school year. This is one of the biggest issues facing state associations and the transfer process. To this point in time State Associations have not really dealt with this issue and how to handle it.

Transfers can be a very expensive process for the athlete, the school and the association.  When these issues go to court over eligibility it brings a lot of pain and anguish and expenses. The negative media coverage than involves more than just the athlete who transfers, it now involves the school administration from both schools, athletic directors, coaches and family members.

No state has the best answer for handling this…

In the 1983 movie ‘War Games‘ in the ending scene the computer named ‘Joshua’ is getting ready to send the world into ‘thermonuclear war‘, until it is asked to play tic-tac-toe and compare the two games.  It quickly plays numerous x’s and o’s in the game until it finally decides ‘The only winning move is not to play the game‘. Nothing it tried would get three in a row and win the game.

The same with the transfer process in high school sports, every thing that has been tried to oversee (x’s) and enforce it (o’s), but nothing works or solves the problem or the time wasted trying to enforce it.

So why go thru all the hoops to enforce it when it doesn’t work at all and with no hope in sight to make it work fairly in the future. The best thing to do is eliminate all the transfer rules.  No more name calling, no need to lie and more time to work on what is important, the actual season of play.

With no transfer rules in place everyone will be equal, those in the past who have played by the rules can now enhance their teams like those who broke the same rules.  It is the most fair way to oversee transfers for every type of school, Public and Private. No interpretations of the rules, no creativity in breaking them, no more filling out paperwork, no time wasted by the state association…a lot of positives could come from this.

If a tuba player transfers to another school and he is able to march in the band without worry of being ineligible, if it is good enough for the band it should be good enough for high school athletes.

This seems to be the only answer to problem, but don’t expect any state association to move in this direction any time soon, if ever.

‘The only winning move is not to play the game’