Jason Lindquist (jlindquist) wrote,
Jason Lindquist

And now the shit hits the fan

I expected this all year long, and finally it happened. There's an article in today's Union-Tribune about the influx of transfers to Poway's baseball program. Dueling anonymous letters have been circulating amongst the parents, some unhappy with the situation, others telling the rest to lighten up. Somebody went to the CIF section, somebody went to the papers. CIF investigated and handed their findings off to Poway's principal. The Union is doing its own digging, I don't know if they'll accomplish any more than they have, by bringing something that was simmering behind the scenes out in public. None of it's any surprise.

You see, this is the next round of a continuing cycle. This happens every four years, give or take a season. You have mostly the same ingredients each time. Parents get upset about their sons not playing. Questions of favoritism arise, either related to parents' involvement in the booster club, or whether players take private lessons from their own assistant coaches or whether they go elsewhere. Tempers flare, solutions are instituted, people graduate, and things quiet down until the next time.

For us, the transfer students are a new angle. But there's already case history on how that works. Rancho Bernardo's Sam Blalock spoke to it earlier this season. During RB's dominant stretch, where they won four section titles in a span of seven years, they had a raft of exceptionally talented transfers. There were a lot of unhappy parents and players amongst the long-time RB residents. There was a common perception that, unless you yourself possessed exceptional talent, it didn't matter how hard you worked. Some more-talented transfer would swoop in and take any spot you tried to earn. It led to a number of kids begging their parents to move elsewhere before or soon after high school started. Quite a few did. And now RB isn't the team they used to be. Make no mistake, they are good. But they're no longer dominant. And they aren't drawing the transfers anymore, as they did in the late 90s and early Naughties.

Several of those RB transfers moved right back to wherever they used to live immediately after graduation. It's widely questioned whether those moves were real in the first place--did people rent an apartment to gain the address, but rarely actually stay there? The Illinois High School Association has clamped down on this by requiring that entire families move, that it can't just be one parent and one child, as was often done there. They've sent investigators to verify residency. (An empty apartment will get you in trouble--it had better be clear that you all live there.) But for people with money, that will never be a problem. CIF can't afford investigators, they don't have the IHSA's budget. And the rule change this fall that made transfers consistent statewide has a pretty fat loophole in it. It lets a student transfer one time, before the opening of their sophomore year, without requiring a change of residence. I think it sucks, but I understand it's the compromise neccessary to get the sections on board that used to have "anything goes" policies.

Yeah, we have four transfers at Poway. Three are sophmores, one is a senior. Of that set, three came from RB, and one from Cathedral Catholic. (No, those sets aren't congruent.) CIF says those transfers are all legal and approved them, and nothing to my knowledge leads me to doubt that. Given the acrimony we're experiencing now, I wonder if in a few years, we'll be in the same place RB is in. Just like RB, we've already had several boys at the lower levels move from baseball to other sports, because they expect there will be no opportunity for them on the varsity. Maybe we win this year's section title, and one or two of the next couple. Will the talent pool drain after that, moving away to other sports and other schools? We'll just have to see...

(On the chance that anybody local runs across this, I will make two points for which there is no basis for debate: One, for the CIF title we won two years ago, those were all local Poway boys who grew up here. Much of that starting lineup had played together for years, I remember them from camp when they were 12 and 13. The transfer situation is a new thing for us. Two, I will brook no attacks on the CIF commissioner. I know him personally, I know him to be an upstanding individual who is beyond reproach. As a Poway parent, this issue puts him in an awful position, and he knows it. At every turn, I've observed that he and his office have handled Poway-related issues in an honest and above-board matter. This issue was investigated, independently, by the section's assistant commissioner. If I saw any reason for concern, I might not raise it here, publically, but I certainly wouldn't be singing anybody's praises. CIF is to be left alone. If there's criticism to be laid about what the rules do and don't allow, it is rightly laid at the feet of the section's principals. They vote on the bylaws and policies, they are the only ones empowered to make changes.)

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