Lawmaker Proposes Closing "First Enrollment Loophole"

Lawmaker Proposes Closing "First Enrollment Loophole"

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- A Bountiful legislator is proposing a measure to close the so-called "First Enrollment Loophole" that allows some athletes to escape rules intended to discourage them from transferring to schools offering them spots on high-profile teams.

The bill by Republican Rep. Ann Hardy mandate all students attending schools outside their boundaries to sit out one year of athletics, as transfer students are required to do.

"The way it stands right now, there are far too many stresses placed on our kids by recruiters and coaches," she said.

The current eligibility requirement applies only to students who have attended one school and then transfer to another school outside their home boundary.

It does not apply to junior high students who can register to attend a high school outside their home boundary.

"You have literally hundreds of students who have circumvented the intent of the rule by using the first enrollment loophole," said Woods Cross resident Todd Cusick, who is spearheading the drive to close the loophole.

In a 2000 survey of high school principals and athletic directors, 88 percent of the principals and 90 percent of the athletic directors supported tighter restrictions on out-of-boundary student athletes.

Cusick feels that students are choosing schools under the influence of parents and recruiters, for strictly athletic reasons, at too young an age.

"This bill is solely intended to overhaul the transfer rule and to close the first enrollment loophole that circumvents that rule," Cusick said.

The first enrollment loophole is viewed by supporters of the bill as a way for coaches and boosters to recruit junior high athletes.

"I got a call last week, which has been confirmed by a couple of other people, that a booster is flying students around in a private plane to sports camps. He's giving them cash to go eat, and one of those students has been seen driving around in the booster's Hummer," Cusick said.

He added that the booster, whom he declined to identify, also has a coaching position at one of the schools.

Hardy said the recruited athletes are displacing a lot of kids who otherwise would have a chance to play high school athletics.

"When athletes transfer to another school, someone is cut from that team to make room for him, or someone has to sit on the bench," she said.

Cusick and Hardy feel that the current system has allowed for super football teams. Cusick said that Skyline High School, which has played for nine straight football championships, had 53 percent of its 2003 starting lineup from schools outside its boundary.

In 2002, players from nine school districts played in the state title game.

(Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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