(1-13-22) Mark Rinehart has been the head basketball coach at Harrison HS in West Lafayette, Indiana since 2011, before that he was a head coach at Cape Coral (Florida) HS for five years. The veteran coach has witnessed a lot during that time.
Rinehart recently sent a letter to the Indiana High School Athletic Association (IHSAA) and asked for their help for him and other coaches facing the same issue.
The purpose of his letter was stated clearly, which was endorsed by over 50 other Indiana coaches –
Our game is being tarnished by coaches who are not being held to any kind of standard when it comes to IHSAA rules pertaining to recruiting and by school administrators who are allowing this to happen.
Rinehart’s Letter To The IHSAA
IHSAA Executive Staff and Board of Directors,
High School Basketball in the State of Indiana is different. As Coaches, Athletic Directors, and Principals, we recognize the role that high school basketball plays in our schools and the impact that it can have on creating positive school environments and experiences for players, cheerleaders, band members, and general students as fans at games. We all have a responsibility to protect the integrity of the game at the high school level. As high school coaches specifically, we are given the opportunity to use this game to impact young people in ways that will have a positive impact on them over the course of their lives. Through the game, we teach and have the responsibility to build our kids and arm them with traits like character, responsibility, a willingness to give of themselves for something bigger. As Coaches, we believe in these values and we believe that young people in our state are better equipped to become successful and productive citizens through their participation in high school athletics. The game here is special, and it is special because generations of players, coaches, and school and state administrators have been willing to adhere to high standards.
It is with those thoughts in mind that we are reaching out to our governing body to ask for your help in partnering with us to clean up our game and protect its future. Our game is being tarnished by coaches who are not being held to any kind of standard when it comes to IHSAA rules pertaining to recruiting and by school administrators who are allowing this to happen. Unfortunately, we have high school basketball programs in our state who are operating like prep schools and bringing players from all over the state, country, and in some cases internationally for the purpose of playing “high school” basketball. The article published in the Indianapolis Star last month by Kyle Neddenriep is just one of many examples. Kids are following AAU coaches who have been hired at high schools because they are obviously promising to bring players with them and as a result we have high school players who are attending 3 and 4 schools during their careers. Other schools in our association are actively bringing kids in from out of state and out of the country, finding and or providing housing for them and creating completely different rosters out of nowhere. The consequences of allowing this type of recruiting to occur are great and they are being felt by the kids currently playing the game. Kids in these programs and the kids who compete against them are learning all the wrong things. They are taking these values with them when they leave high school. Even worse, generations of future players won’t have the opportunity to experience a meaningful high school basketball experience.
As coaches and administrators we all take pride in the success stories that come from the investment that we make in kids, however we are now going to have to collectively acknowledge that we are setting kids up to fail. Instead of putting their head down and going to work when things get hard, our players are learning to quit and try to find a new and easy short cut to success. If this trend continues and it is growing at an alarming pace, the school and community connection to it’s high school basketball teams will be lost. The role of the coach in a school and community will be changed and instead of the coach establishing meaningful relationships with young people through youth and middle school programs the coach becomes the recruiter for the annual varsity team. As opposed to the basketball program being a source of pride in the community, teams are becoming just a group of kids brought together to play a season and the JV, Freshman, middle school, and youth levels will cease to be a priority or even exist. This isn’t a prediction, it is already a reality in many schools. In the end, what is happening is the opposite of education based athletics and we have to stop it.
The vast majority of our colleagues in this state do things the right way. They start youth programs to build fundamental skills and teach the foundations of their system and they are held accountable by school administrations who are invested in more than short term varsity victories. Basketball programs give kids the opportunity to grow in the game in elementary and middle school so that far more kids get to experience the joy of being on a basketball team. They work at Freshman and JV levels to develop consistency within their programs and develop a depth of talent that can be relied on year after year. Our coaches work tirelessly to teach young people in our programs that opportunity for success will come over time if they buy into the concepts of consistent, dedicated, and disciplined hard work. They build programs where young men and women are willing to invest and trust in each other to work toward common goals, and they create teams at all grade levels who are representatives of their athletic departments, schools and communities. In return, they deserve the opportunity to allow their teams to compete on a level playing field.
High school basketball in Indiana is at a tipping point. We recognize the need to partner with the IHSAA to attack this serious issue on multiple fronts. The strategy of dealing with improper transfers by simply ruling the student ineligible is complicated by the appeals process and our current situation is letting us all know that it is not working. Our coaches in this state want to be held to high standards and to uphold the rich tradition of Indiana High School basketball. If our colleagues won’t meet that standard and individual schools promote recruiting athletes to transfer to their school for athletic reasons, we need pressure applied to hold individual schools and coaches accountable. By eliminating IHSAA tournament eligibility, having schools dropped from schedules, and coaches knowing they will face actual consequences we can get on top of the issue and create change. The signees below are asking for all stakeholders in our game (Coaches, Athletic Directors, Principals, IHSAA, and Coaches Associations) to come together and take action to protect high school basketball. Our game depends on it.
Head Boys Basketball Coach
Harrison High School
The letter to the IHSAA from Coach Rinehart is quite clear, but when reviewing eligibility waivers for a transfer in Indiana the ‘barn door’ has already been opened for about any request. The solution for the problem could be a tough one to implement.
IHSAA Waivers for transfers are numerous and give a lot of leeway to both the student and the school, below comes from the IHSAA’s bylaws. The parameters of each allow for a lot of ‘wiggle’ room in interpretation of the rules.
Full Eligibility Under the General Waiver rule
Q. 17-2 How does a student bring to the attention of the IHSAA the fact that he/she has transferred Schools without a parental change in residences, however, he/she has a valid non-athletic reason for transferring, and what does the student need to show to establish that the transfer qualifies for full eligibility under the General Waiver Rule, rule 17-8.1?
A. A student who believes that the circumstances of the transfer qualifies for full eligibility under the General Waiver Rule (rule 17-8.1), is obligated to make the application for the waiver a part of the student’s Transfer Report. Any waiver request must be substantiated with documents and statements showing a clear basis for a waiver. The failure of a student to provide evidence and proof of the circumstances supporting the waiver, and especially the failure to even request a waiver on the Transfer Report, indicates that the transfer may not really be the result of the circumstances offered to support the waiver request. (rule 19-8.1)
Q. 17-3 A student’s family claims that it cannot afford to send a student to a Private School because of an increase in tuition costs at the Private School, or because the family’s financial situation has had a negative change, and as a result, the family cannot afford the cost of the Private School. Can the student get full eligibility under the General Waiver Rule, rule 17-8.1?
A. A tuition-paying Private School student may successfully show a ‘hardship condition’ based on a substantial negative change in financial conditions, however, the student must show that the change was unforeseeable, permanent, substantial, and significantly beyond the control of the student and the student’s family. Increases in tuition or additional costs at a Private School are considered ‘foreseeable’ and generally do not meet the criteria. To be considered, the claimed negative change in the family’s financial condition must have arisen after the student’s Enrollment at the Private School. In addition, the
student must have attempted to address the negative change in the family’s financial condition with the Private School (e.g. financial aid), and show that any aid or assistance from the Private School was insufficient to address the negative change in the family’s financial conditions. In all cases, the student
and the student’s family must clearly show that the cost of the Private School is no longer affordable. (rule 17-8.4(c))
Q. 17-4 A student is Enrolled in a School which is not a School which Serves the Student’s Residence. It is becoming more and more difficult to travel to and from the School. If the student transfers to the School which Serves the Student’s Residence, will the student be eligible for Varsity competition under the General Waiver Rule?
A. Generally, no. When it was decided that the student would enroll at a School which did not serve the student’s residence, the student and his/her family were well aware that transportation problems might arise (the problems were clearly ‘foreseeable’), and with such understanding, they voluntarily assumed
full responsibility for any current and any future transportation problems. When transportation problems then do arise, such as road construction, changes in carpools, weather-related difficulties, rise in gas prices, family-related transportation problems, etc., these problems were foreseeable and were
voluntarily assumed, and therefore were problems which likely would not support a waiver of the rule. (rules 17-8.1, 17-8.3)
Q. 17-5 A School has discontinued an academic program in which the student participated. If the student transfers to a new School that offers the same program can the student get full eligibility under the General Waiver Rule?
A. A transfer made as a result of a School discontinuing a particular academic program might establish a hardship condition, however, there must be proof that the student was fully enrolled in the academic program at the former School, the program had been a significant focus of the student and a focus of
the student’s education program, the program was discontinued at the former School and the student actually Enrolled in the same or a similar program at the new School. The discontinuance of a single subject, like calculus, will not result in a student receiving a waiver. (rules 17-8.1, 17-8.3)
Q. 17-6 A student, without a parental move, transfers to a new School because of a medical condition. Will the student be allowed to compete at his new School at the Varsity level?
A. Transfers because of a medical condition may qualify for full eligibility under the General Waiver Rule (17-8.1) provided a physician substantiates the need fothe transfer as an integral part of the student’s medical therapy of prevention or medical therapy of the aggravation of an existing condition, serious enough to warrant a compelling need to transfer. If it appears that the diagnosis was made for the purpose of establishing athletic eligibility at the new School, the request will likely be denied. And since neither a psychologist, a nurse nor a social worker is able to make medical diagnosis, any supporting opinion, letter or report from such individuals, based upon a medical reason, will be given little if any consideration.
Q. 17-7 If a student Enrolls for his freshman year at a Private School or at a Public School outside the student’s Public School attendance area, and then has trouble making friends at this School and also has academic difficulties at this School which is known as being academically challenging, can the student,
without a parental move, transfer to another School where the student’s friends are attending or which offers a course of study which is less challenging than the students original School, and get full athletic eligibility (varsity) at the new School?
A. This circumstances generally would not satisfy the criteria for a student eligibility general waiver (rules 17-8.1, 17-8.3). Since it is foreseeable that there could be social adjustment problems when a student attends an out-of-District School, and could be scholastic problems when a student attends an academically challenging School, attendance at such a School would not qualify as a hardship condition. (rule 17-8.3)
Q. 17-8 A student wants to attend a different School where the scholastic program is better and where the student will fit in better. Will the student be eligible at the Varsity level?
A. Transfers for these reasons generally fail to meet the criteria for full eligibility under the General Waiver Rule. A decision to change Schools because someplace else is “better” is not the result of a circumstance which necessitates a School change, but is more often the consequence of a family’s decision about what School they believe to be superior. This is a choice, totally within the control of the student and the student’s family. Students and parents are urged to research schools prior to Enrollment. (rules 17-8.1, 17-8.3).
Q. 17-9 Will a student get a Student Eligibility General Waiver (rules 17-8.1, 17-8.3) following a transfer if the student was the subject of a disciplinary action at the Sending School and the transfer was because of that disciplinary action?
A. No. Students who transfer as a result of some disciplinary action, pending disciplinary action or a code of conduct violation at a Sending School would not meet the criteria for a Student Eligibility General Waiver. (rules 17-8.1,17-8.3)
Q. 17-10 A student attends a School where the student’s family believes there is gang activity and believes the student is not a safe. The family doesn’t want to move but does want the student to transfer to another, safer School. What’s the leve of athletic eligibility which will result from this transfer?
A. Safety issues at a Sending School may constitute a Hardship Condition (rule 17-8.3) and a transfer because of such safety concerns may meet the General Waiver Rule criteria (rule 17-8.1) and permit full eligibility. In cases where the family believes there is an unsafe school environment at the Sending School,
the student must show the existence of such problem, must show the problem directly impacted the student and must show that remaining on that School’s campus would be dangerous for the student. The preferable proof would include school reports of incidents involving the student, evidence that the
student requested the school to provide assistance in dealing with the problem and proof that the problem persisted. Proof of rumors of potentially dangerous conditions will probably not support a student’s request for a Student Eligibility General Waiver
Q. 17-11 A student has been bullied by another student while enrolled at a school and transfers to a neighboring school to get away from the student bully. The student seeks full eligibility under the General Waiver Rule, 17-8.1. Does a bullying situation qualify as a hardship condition?
A. Bullying may qualify as a hardship condition if there has been a verified history of bullying and the bullying occurred at the Sending School, and not over social media, not at the mall, not at McDonalds. Also, any bullying incidents must have been reported to the Sending School at the time the bullying occurred, and at a minimum, the student must have completely complied with the Sending School’s Bullying Policy in order for the claimed bullying to be considered. (rule 17-8.3)
Q. 17-12 Can bullying within or among athletes and teammates qualify as a hardship condition?
A. A claim of bullying involving teammates generally does not qualify as a hardship condition since a student who transfers as the result of an athletically-related event is transferring for an athletic reason, even if the event is a teammate bullying another teammate. Under rule 17-8.3, before a situation can be
considered a hardship condition, the situation must be non-athletic. Under 17-8.3(b), any evidence that the transfer was motivated by athletics often eliminates the chance that the situation is a hardship condition. Eligibility Under the Transfer Waiver Rule 17-8.5
Q. 17-13 A student moves to the home of an uncle who became the student’s Guardian, and transfers to a school which serves the uncle’s residence. The principal of both the former School and the new School signed the verification on the Transfer Report that the transfer was in the best interest of the student and
that there were no athletic related motives involved. Will the student get full eligibility under rule 17-8.5?
A. No, under rule 17-8.5, the student must meet each condition of the rule, including the requirement that the “student continues to reside with his/her parents/Guardians”, and here since the student did not meet the “continue to reside” criteria, the student would not receive a rule 17-8.5 waiver.
Q. 17-14 A student moves between the residences of his divorced parents, but he does not want to enroll at the School which Serves the Student’s (new) Residence, and instead, wants to enroll at a School not Serving the new residence. Can the student get full eligibility at the new School under 17-8.5?
A. No. A student moving to live with a parent can obtain full eligibility under rule19-6.1(b), but under rule 19-6.3, can only obtain full eligibility at the School which Serves the Student Residence, and here the Receiving School did not Serve the student’s new residence. Also, a student who moves from one parent to another cannot meet the criteria for a Limited Eligibility Waiver (rule 17-8.5) because the student has to continue to reside with the parent, and in this case the student did not continue to reside with the parent, but instead moved to live with the other parent
The problem Rinehart and his fellow coaches are facing are not just an Indiana problem, but a national issue that continues to spread and happens on a regular basis.