Senate takes aim at WVSSAC transfer rule

Senate takes aim at WVSSAC transfer rule
Published: Jan. 19, 2023 at 7:43 PM EST
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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) - Switching teams with no timeout. Your high school athlete could soon have that opportunity, if a state senator who represents the Northern Panhandle gets his proposal across the goal line.

“I think it’s extremely important to fight for these kids who transfer schools for whatever reason, and then are forced to sit out for a year,” Sen. Ryan Weld told WSAZ NewsChannel 3. “How is that helpful to the student?”

Weld, R-Brooke, shared his plan Thursday with the Senate Education Committee, which quickly advanced the proposal without opposition.

The legislation, Senate Bill 262, would grant your student athlete the chance to switch schools one time with no loss of eligibility.

The West Virginia Secondary Schools Activity Commission, currently, requires those who switch schools after ninth grade to sit out one year unless the they have a change of address or a bona fide reason.

Weld says it discriminates against student athletes, although the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals upheld the rule as constitutional in November 2022.

“If you’re transferring from out of state to West Virginia, you don’t have to sit out. If you’re from a school, like in my area, Linsly to Wheeling Park, you don’t have to sit out. But otherwise, you do,” he said. “How is that fair?”

The WVSSAC, the state’s rule making authority for high school sports, opposes SB 262.

Its executive director, Bernie Dolan, sent a letter to state senators, writing that a lack of playing time often motivates a student to switch schools. He argues the proposed law would upset the spirit of fair competition and hurt academics.

“We think it’s not a great idea, academically, to be changing schools unnecessarily in the middle of your high school career,” Dolan told WSAZ NewsChannel 3.

The Senate passed a near identical bill last year.

Sen. Mike Caputo was one of three ‘no’ votes, the other two no longer in the state Senate.

“I want to be real cautious, here, that this isn’t just a tool for recruiting high school athletes to go from one school to another,” he said.

“People despise the transfer portal in college. Some of those people would say you’re doing the exact same thing here,” WSAZ Investigative/Political Reporter Curtis Johnson asked Weld.

“I’m am doing nothing of the sort, because the transfer portal -- I believe it’s unlimited transfers,” Weld replied. “This bill allows one transfer, and that’s it.”

With Thursday’s vote of the Senate Education Committee, his proposal now heads to the Senate floor.

Del. Joe Ellington, R-Mercer, told WSAZ that he supports the concept and will review anything passed by the Senate. He chairs the House Education Committee, where last year’s attempt to change the transfer rule died.

Weld says November’s state Supreme Court ruling essentially blocks future court challenges and makes passage of his law even more important.