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Bill Would Open High School Sports Transfer Portal

The West Virginia State Senate has approved and sent to the House of Delegates a bill that would significantly expand the ability of high school athletes to transfer between schools. SB 262 would allow an athlete to transfer to a new school one time without losing any eligibility.

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“I think it’s very important that we provide every student with every opportunity that they should be allowed to have,” said Senate Majority Whip Ryan Weld (R, Brooke), primary sponsor of the bill.

The bill passed 27-5 in the Senate. Senator Jay Taylor (R, Taylor) voted in favor of the bill. “To me, this is a freedom bill,” he said. “What is in the best interest of our children?” Taylor said during floor debate.

Not everyone agrees. Wes Eddy, executive director of the West Virginia Coaches Association, said the rule change would unleash a “tidal wave” of transfers as the best athletes are recruited to different schools, opening the high school version of the college transfer portal.

Coaches may be tempted even more to recruit, even though it would be against the rules, but Eddy said it isn’t the coaches he is worried about. “Parents and student athletes are the biggest drivers in recruiting,” he said.

Senator Randy Smith (R, Tucker) spoke against the bill during Senate debate. He said opening the transfer portal could cause small schools to lose their best players. “Heaven forbid they have a superstar on their team, then every big school around is after them, trying to get them to transfer,” Smith said.

Currently, students can choose their high school when they leave middle school. They can transfer to another high school, but they lose a year of eligibility. However, students can apply for a waiver by claiming an undue hardship or that the rule fails to accomplish its intended purpose. Often those waivers are granted, so the athlete does not lose a year of eligibility.

The rule change envisioned by the legislation would allow a high school athlete to transfer to another school, no questions asked. And, if they choose, they could later transfer back to their original school.

Coach Eddy believes liberalizing the transfer rule detracts from the mission of high school athletics. He said sports “are an extension of the classroom. It’s not a ticket to worldwide fame and the NFL.”

Philosophically, Senator Weld has a point; students should have access to the best opportunities available to them. However, unfortunately, the practical application of the rule change will mean high school sports will lose even more of their amateur status as young athletes gain access to their version of the portal.