In another step toward clarifying potential pitfalls with the much-discussed transfer-and-eligibility issues, the Utah High School Activities Association’s Board of Trustees gathered Thursday morning to be informed of potential rule changes drawn up by the UHSAA Executive Committee last week.
With trustees representing most of the state’s regions in attendance, UHSAA assistant director Bart Thompson laid out the proposed changes created by the executive committee, most importantly the issue of dealing with ineligible players and the potential repercussions once an ineligible player is discovered by a program or an investigation.
As reported last week, one of the main propositions included removing ‘may,’ and implementing the phrase ‘shall’ in the UHSAA constitution’s bylaws, leaving no wiggle room for potential misinterpretation, something that continued to pop up this past fall with situation of ineligible players at East and Timpview.
“We’re attempting to avoid that problem,” said UHSAA legal counselor Mark Van Wagoner. “If we want no exceptions, make it clear there are no exceptions.”
Van Wagoner used the situation at East High School this past fall as an example of how teams and programs should center their plans around self-reporting potential ineligible violations.
“There was a great deal of minimizing at the outset,” he said, “because the consequences appeared to be severe.”
Self-reporting potential violations is a subject that will be touched on as the executive committee and board address moving forward. Trustee Jerry Haslam, who is the principal at Granger High School, voiced his concerns of putting an entire team’s season and success on the shoulders of student-athletes who could embellish whether or not they’re actually eligible to play.
“It’s problematic,” he said.
UHSAA Executive Director Rob Cuff added that potential forfeitures for playing ineligible players does not take away the right to appeal if the appeal comes within 10 days of the decision.
Van Wagoner said that the appeals process within the guidelines of the new proposals raises a question, and that is how does one take a position to argue a rule to be waved if they’ve been found ineligible to play?
“You have to determine if you’re prepared to take the risk that someone will not follow the rules,” he said, “or you’re going to take the position that everybody would self-report [ineligible violations].”
UHSAA assistant director Becky Anderson said members of the executive committee have worked on a template to ensure that coaches and staff members have all the necessary information that players are eligible to play. A trial checklist of questions for information on potential student-athletes is key, Anderson said, especially when it comes to new faces trying out for various sports each season.
“We thought it would help to have something like this that helps coaches say, “Did that, did that, did that, and to prevent things from falling through the cracks,” she said.
Added Thompson: “It adds more layers of responsibility and spreads out the burden.”
The Board of Trustees did not vote to accept or deny any of the number of proposals Thursday. The next Board of Trustees meeting is scheduled for Thursday, March 21, at the Willow Creek Country Club. Nothing will be voted upon in terms of these rule changes and proposals until the March meeting, which will be followed by a vote from all 136 sanctioned schools of the UHSAA across the state of Utah after the board decides what proposals it wishes to push through.