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IHSA executive director says number of high school athletes transferring schools is increasing

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Bradley Leeb
File Photo

There are growing concerns about the increasing number of student athletes hopping between schools.

That’s according to Executive Director of the Illinois High School Association Craig Anderson. He oversees all transfer eligibility rulings, except when a student moves with both parents.

Pre-pandemic he would see a little over 1,000 eligibility rulings a year. That number has increased to about 2,000 a year.

Anderson said eligibility rulings aren’t needed for a move with both parents. He said rulings are needed for a variety of situations, including students moving with one parent or going to live with a guardian.

“There's all kinds of reasons why students might be transferring,” he said. “We don't have a rule that would limit a student from choosing to transfer for athletic reasons, specifically, as long as they meet the transfer bylaw requirements that are currently in place.”

Illinois High School Association Executive Director Craig Anderson.
Courtesy of Illinois High School Association.
Illinois High School Association Executive Director Craig Anderson.

Transfers within a school district may require a period of ineligibility for a sport or activity. The length is determined as part of the eligibility ruling. Periods of ineligibility can not last more than 365 days, according to the IHSA bylaws.

Students can transfer to a private school within 30 miles of their home, but there is also a period of ineligibility required.

Anderson said he has seen more athletes request transfers for sports, as opposed to a move with family. He says they ask on the form if the transfer is motivated by athletics.

“I'm conscious about how honestly, you know, the folks are responding to that question,” he said.

IHSA also has special guidelines for students who are homeless and may not have a home address to report. The rules ensure that those students can still have eligibility to participate in school activities.

Anderson said there’s also a concern from schools that there’s an increase in coaches recruiting players to their teams, which is forbidden by IHSA rules.

Coaches aren’t allowed to contact students or provide them any incentives.

“So they can't make an outreach and tell them that they'd have a starting position at the new school, or that they know of a home that they can get for a special rental price,” Anderson said. “Or they have an assistant coach that has a home that they could rent for a minimal fee. Anything that would be provided to an athlete that wouldn't otherwise be provided to any other student really falls in the line of recruiting.”

Anderson said whenever there is a believed connection between a student and a coach then the coach has to make clear how they know the student, as well as how they know about the students participation in the sport before the transfer was requested.

IHSA did receive proposed changes to transfer rules this year, but neither one moved forward in the voting process. Anderson said the proposals had some holes in them, but he does believe there’s a way to change the laws to limit school hopping.

“Other state associations like ours have moved to just allowing all students one free transfer of schools during their high school years to have eligibility, and then really, significantly cutting down on future eligibility if they go to a third or a fourth school,” he said.

Andersons said that rule acknowledges that there are instances where students do need to move schools, but is intended to prevent school hopping by athletes.

“If the membership wanted to, they could absolutely create some language within the transfer bylaw that could really restrict student eligibility when they transfer,” Anderson said, but acknowledged that any rule changes might take time to work out.

Camryn Cutinello is a reporter and digital content director at WCBU. You can reach Camryn at