The rewording of the OIA transfer rule may seem like small potatoes, but it has large implications.
Due to an out-of-court settlement in the case of Miller v. Kishimoto recently, the scuttlebutt around OIA athletic directors is that the league is back to the “wild, wild West” of a few years ago.
OIA athletic directors will not talk about it on the record, referring any inquiries to OIA executive director Ray Fujino. Fujino did not return a call asking for his thoughts on the subject Tuesday.
In a nutshell, the transfer rule that went into effect in 2015 is back in play. Gone is an amendment from 2017.
That amendment was a stricter version. It stipulated that any athlete transferring from one public school to another had to sit out one year if he wanted to play in the same sport.
But after an agreement by the lawyers in Miller v. Kishimoto, the transfer rule is back to being less strict.
With the amendment gone, if an athlete has a home district, he or she can always play there, even if he or she played at another school via district exception the year before. That’s what happened with Jalen Miller, whose home district is and always has been Kapolei. However, Miller played for Mililani in the 2016-17 season due to a district exception. He wanted to move back to play for Kapolei in 2017-18, but was initially denied. Then came the Miller family’s suit against the OIA (and DOE superintendent Christina Kishimoto), and a restraining order against the OIA in its attempt to enforce the rule followed soon after. And then Miller wound up playing the whole season for Kapolei, and the lawyers — Eric Seitz for the Millers, and Lyle Hosoda for the OIA — agreed to settle out of court.
OK, but how does that change things? You won’t hear anyone in the OIA say it, but one of the reasons it put the amendment in place in 2017, apparently, was to stop kids from setting up residency in less-than up-and-up fashion.
Although it was never fully documented in print or proven, there was an interesting tale going around about a football player in 2015 who tried to leave his home district and enroll in one school, but was found to have a shady address that was linked to his coach’s business. He was told by the school administration that he couldn’t do that, and so he eventually established residency in Kahuku through a relative, and as far as we know that residency was fully legal. That player helped lead the Red Raiders to the top-tier state championship.
And that’s what makes the new, watered-down version of the transfer rule full of holes, so to speak.
Now, it appears that players can look for relatives outside of their district to establish residency and, ostensibly, be legal.
It should be noted, however, that in the wording of the Miller v. Kishimoto agreement, it is clear that the OIA may try to make the rule stricter in the near future:
“OIA reserves the right to review this rule with the intent on making improvements to the same in time for the 2018-19 school year. OIA rules committee and legal counsel are to collaborate with the DOE and its counsel as well as Plaintiffs counsel with regard to the contemplated modifications of this rule.”
And in the meantime, it is worth remembering that the OIA is out for the best interests of all of its athletes.
As it reads in the agreement: “The OIA is and has always been committed to the student-athlete and fair play. It will continue to review and revise its rules with that intent in mind.”