(1-23-18) The following is the BLOG of Michigan High School Athletic Association (MHSAA) Executive Director Jack Roberts on transfer rules: “Striking A Balance”

The main focus of the bog is is the transfer rules curretnly in place and how the association members are a key part of the issue, a very good look inside what the thinking of the association and what the future might hold.


The biggest case has been the eligibilty of 2017-18 has been what took place in Clarkston, Michigan. Clarkston transfer (Senior) Thomas Kithier moved to the area from Macomb Dakota this past summer, the school district would not sign off on the transfer. Kithier was declared ineligible, his lawyers would later ask for an injunction to allow him to play he was denied.

In a statement to the Detroit Free Press, Chippewa Valley Schools Superintendent Ron Roberts:

“This summer, we were asked to sign a transfer agreement for Thomas Kithier to Clarkston High School. There was a lot of proof that made it clear to us that the transfer was what the MHSAA considers, ‘athletically motivated.’”

“The transfer agreement from the MHSAA requested our administrators sign a document and attest to statements that our administrators believed were clearly not true in this instance. We discussed the issue and agreed that signing off on the document would put us in the unenviable and unacceptable position of lying to the MHSAA. We made the MHSAA aware of our reason for not signing the document and we let them know of our concerns. It appeared clear to us that the circumstances behind the transfer were a direct violation of MHSAA rules. That is where Chippewa Valley’s involvement in this process ended. The MHSAA has its own evidence to support its finding that the transfer was athletically motivated and that is why they ruled the way they did. We tried to do what we teach our students: Don’t lie and follow the rules. We believe that honesty is, in fact, the best policy.”

Striking A Balance

The Update Meeting presentation included cautions that, while the vast majority of school administrators and coaches want a tougher and tighter transfer rule with longer periods of ineligibility and fewer exceptions that permit immediate eligibility, many people outside of school sports believe such changes would infringe upon their individual choices; and even some people involved in school sports at the local level lose interest in supporting the rules already in place when they are applied to their own situation.

The Update Meeting concerns have been legitimized during more recent months in both high and low profile situations.

There are suggestions that the MHSAA should have an investigations department to search for and penalize athletic-oriented transfers and unscrupulous acts by coaches, parents and others. Which is a foolish notion. The MHSAA does not have subpoena power, can’t perform wiretaps, and cannot devote the personnel and other resources that an investigations department would require. Even with hundreds of millions of dollars in resources, the NCAA has not been able to execute that function for intercollegiate sports, and recently the FBI stepped in to do the difficult work.

As has been its long-standing and generally effective practice, the MHSAA relies heavily on its member schools to help enforce its rules, which schools agree to do as a condition of their voluntary membership.

At the other extreme are suggestions to do away altogether with transfer eligibility rules. Let anything and everything go. Which is what we call the AAU, an incompatible approach to student-centered, school-sponsored sports.

Striking a balance is a difficult, but worthwhile endeavor. To that end, the MHSAA Representative Council works tirelessly on behalf of member schools to establish the proper set of rules to create competitive equity.