WIAA adopts stricter rules for transfers, academics

Prep sports

  • Friday, March 21, 2014 4:07pm
  • Sports

No more senior-year apathy, no more easy transfers and more leniency for office errors.

Student athletes in Washington middle and high schools are getting a slew of rule changes to their handbooks after the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association board approved a number of changes in late April, including a mandate that athletes may fail only one class.

This school year, student athletes need to maintain passing grades in three of five classes; in 2008-2009, they will need to up that to at least four passing grades. Students with six classes will need five passing grades as opposed to the current four, and students with seven classes will need six passing grades instead of just five.

Chris Olson, Sequim High School athletic director, said the rule change is a positive one across the board, but that it may force some high school seniors to take full class loads in their final semesters if they want to continue to play sports.

While Sequim’s sports program policy falls in line with the WIAA standard concerning the number of classes required for eligibility, Olson noted Sequim coaches already have stricter policies than that, including several programs with a “no F” standard.

While most of the WIAA rule changes don’t have major impacts on Sequim sports, they do have potential for impacts upon Olympic League schools. Among the notable rule changes from the WIAA board’s April 25 assembly:


The WIAA board made it more difficult for student athletes to move from one high school to another within district boundaries. For years, for example, athletes who lived close to the 2A Klahowya Secondary School would switch to the much larger 4A Central Kitsap High School with little paperwork; those students now are considered “transfers” and must meet many more requirements to be eligible for varsity sports.

Such transfers also have to apply for eligibility from one of the state’s nine statewide districts instead of simply from their own school district, creating what Olson expects to be double or triple the number of transfer appeals.

Errors and forfeits

“An inadvertent error,” a new WIAA rule reads, “is a mechanical, electronic, or clerical (incorrect posting) or an incorrect interpretation or application of the Rules and Regulations committed by the principal or athletic director that resulted in an ineligible participant competing in a contest. In the event of an inadvertent error, the school officials may petition the league to have the forfeiture voided.”

But the rule doesn’t address errors that made the most news in Washington prep sports this past school year. In the fall, Archbishop Murphy’s undefeated football team had to forfeit its 10 wins, playoff victory and chance for a class 2A state title when school officials discovered the Wildcats had used a player with an expired physical exam. When the school notified the WIAA, the association stripped Archbishop Murphy of its season.

Furthermore, this spring Olympic League member Kingston had to forfeit two baseball games because of a similar expired physical; in Kingston’s case, the Bucs only had to forfeit two games.

But Mike Colbrese, the association’s executive director, told the Kitsap Sun an expired physical doesn’t fit the “mechanical, electronic or clerical” guideline.

“(Archbishop Murphy) knew the kid didn’t have a physical,” Colbrese said. “That’s not a clerical error.”

Student-athlete gifts

The board voted to allow student athletes to receive merchandise or in-kind gifts up to $300 starting next year, an increase from the $100 maximum from 2007-2008. Reduced membership fees, such as those from golf courses or swimming pools, do not count toward the limit.

Olson said this rule likely affects students who win summer tournaments and are forced to turn down prizes worth more than $100.

Opting up

The association board also tweaked the requirements for schools asking to “opt up” to a higher classification and put further restrictions upon ineligible athletes transferring to other schools trying to regain eligibility.

See the board’s amendments at www.wiaa.com.

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