COLUMBUS  The Ohio High School Athletic Association’s transfer rule has been a hotly debated issue through the years. As recently as this decade, rules stipulated that a student who transferred but did not immediately move into his or her new district or meet one of a few specified exceptions had to sit out athletics for an entire school year.

That rule was then amended in 2013, with the new guideline stipulating that a student would be ineligible during the first half of the season in the sports that the student played in the previous 12 months prior to the date of transfer.

Simply put, for example, a football player would have to sit the first five games of a season but would be eligible to play the second half of the season and postseason, should his or her team qualify. However, as OHSAA Director of Communications Tim Stried has noted in multiple interviews, the revised rule has led to a scenario in which some athletes have transferred to a new school - without moving to the new district - and been willing to sit out the first half of the season with an eye on becoming eligible for the postseason and creating a sort of super team aimed at winning in the tournament.

As a result, the OHSAA board of directors has passed a referendum that the organization’s member schools will vote on in May regarding a major change to the rule. The proposed change is among seven items approved by the OHSAA board of directors Thursday to go on the ballot during the OHSAA’s annual referendum voting period.

"Much of the feedback we have received from the membership indicates that the current consequence – sitting out the first half of the regular-season – is not a significant deterrent," OHSAA executive director Dr. Dan Ross said. "If a student knows that the end of the regular season and the tournament will still be available, they are more likely to transfer. We don’t believe that a high number of transfers is good for education-based athletics."

The proposed change, which can only be approved by a majority vote of the OHSAA’s 819 member high schools, changes the sit-out period for transfer students who do not meet one of the established exceptions to the transfer bylaw.

Rather than sit out the preseason and the first half of the regular season before becoming eligible to participate, under the proposed change, students would sit out the second half of the regular season and the OHSAA postseason tournament.

That would deprive those athletes and their teams of a chance to play in the most important games of the season. Member schools will vote on all proposed changes from May 1-15, with results announced on May 16. If approved by the membership, the change would become effective immediately and apply to any students who transfer after May 16, 2018. Changes to the OHSAA constitution and bylaws can only come from a majority vote of the member schools.

There are 11 exceptions in the transfer bylaw, the most common being a change of residence into a new school district, which grant immediate eligibility.

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