High school athletic recruitment/transfer problems can be solved

Several weeks ago in my column about the Lee Academy Postgrads, I mentioned my experience with recruiting and transfers. I reiterate that I believe recruitment and transfers happen as much in public high schools as in private high schools.
Now that the Maine Principals’ Association has put Lee Academy on two years probation for not following the MPA’s athletic recruitment policy involving inducements to student-athletes, it is time to reveal what I believe to be the real causes of athletic recruiting in Maine high schools and how to solve them.
The main reason that recruiting is done as much by public high schools is that last year 139 high schools in Maine sponsored basketball teams and only 28 of them were private high schools and of those 28 only 16 were 100 percent private.
There were 12 semi-private/public high schools called academies.
So with 111 public high schools compared to just 28 private or semi-private high schools, it is a statistical probability that more public schools recruit.
Also, my experience with recruiting goes as far back to the late 1960s when I had an outstanding public high school player being recruited by another area high school for another sport.
I was accused of recruiting when I coached at John Bapst, a private high school, when in fact, some schools that were accusing me were actually trying to recruit some of my players.
This experience just adds to my opinion that public high schools recruit as much, if not more, than private high schools.
However, the biggest reason there is a recruiting problem in high schools today is because the MPA changed the original transfer rule in the 1980s.
The original transfer rule stated that if a student/athlete transferred to another public school and did not change domicile with his parents/guardians then they were ineligible for a year from the date of transferring.
Private high schools could accept student/athletes without the student and parents/guardians having to change domicile. This did give the private schools an advantage if a student/athlete transferred.
Another major problem has been the towns that do not have high schools as some of those students are recruited for athletic purposes. The students in these towns can go to any school they wish in the state (except religious-based schools) with their town paying the tuition.
The MPA’s recruitment and transfer policies/rules are very detailed and cover all aspects of recruiting and transfer possibilities. However, the rules now state that if the student, parents/guardians, and principals sign a transfer waiver that the transfer is not for athletic purposes, then the student is eligible immediately.
Before this current transfer rule was in effect, there was very little athletic recruiting going on, but the change in the transfer rule, the addition of more private high schools, and the coming of age of AAU-type teams in the early 1990s have led to a recruiting problem with the private high schools taking the brunt of the accusations that they recruit for athletic purposes.
All high schools in Maine may have step-up days and may recruit students so long as it is for academics, special courses, or nonathletic extracurricular activities.
I spent my first 30 years in education in the public sector as a teacher, coach and athletic director. My last 13 years were in a private high school.
By the time I went into private high school education, the MPA transfer rule had been changed to its current reading.
I know I was accused of recruiting as I was the AD and basketball coach and John Bapst won three state championships and were Eastern Maine runnersup twice during my first six years.
I faced the same criticism that Lee Academy and Cheverus have taken because they also have won state and regional championships.
Isn’t it odd, that people only really get upset with private high schools is when they win big?
Back then in the 1990s, the MPA would only look at a written complaint from a parent about recruiting violations before it would even investigate.
Currently, if a member school files a complaint against another member school, alleging recruiting violations, then the MPA will investigate. This has reduced recruiting a little more than when the parents had to file a complaint.
Dirigo filed a complaint against Lee and this may now open Pandora’s Box.
Wait and see what kind of a precedent this sets for other schools to follow the same process.
The MPA could stop this problem of athletic recruiting simply by going back to the original transfer rule.
Then, add that if a student does enter and attends a public high school or private high school anywhere in the world as a freshman, then transfers to a private high school or a public high school as a sophomore, junior or senior, then they are ineligible for a year unless the parent/guardians and the student-athlete move to the location of the new school
These two changes would eliminate the problems that have persisted over the years with recruiting and transferring.