Written by Matt Wixon
Wixon: Prime Prep mess proves UIL's process for reviewing transfers -- using DECs -- is 'seriously flawed'
After the District 11-3A executive committee finished voting on the eligibility of Prime Prep Academy students Wednesday, Deion Sanders asked a question of the media gathered at the Dallas ISD administration building.
“Would you guys be standing right here today,” Sanders said, “if my name wasn’t on the school?”
Some of them certainly wouldn’t be. So for the last two weeks, as the eligibility of Prime Prep student-athletes was discussed, Sanders’ celebrity served a good purpose.
It brought more attention to the University Interscholastic League’s process for reviewing transfers, and it’s a process that’s seriously flawed.
That showed as the District 11-3A executive committee ruled three basketball players who transferred from Arlington Grace Prep ineligible: junior Emmanuel Mudiay and seniors Karviar Shepherd and Damon Collins. One Grace Prep transfer, senior Jordan Mickey, was ruled eligible by a 3-2 vote.
How was Mickey’s case different? I’m not sure. He got yes votes from Irving North Hills athletic director Ben Hunt, who declined comment after the meeting, and from Roosevelt athletic director John Simon and Wilmer-Hutchins athletic director Elzie Barnett, who left the meeting quickly and didn’t return phone calls.
No explanation was given during the discussion by the 11-3A voting members from Ferris, Irving North Hills, Madison, Roosevelt and Wilmer-Hutchins. Nobody asked why Mickey, who attended Richardson Berkner as a freshman and sophomore and still lived in Richardson while attending Grace Prep last year, now has a Dallas address.
There were very few questions at all. There wasn’t much discussion on the players who were ruled ineligible, either. Part of the reason could be that the committee voted Wednesday on the eligibility of a whopping 26 transfers to Prime Prep.
How could the committee members have the time to properly review that many transfers? They didn’t even have the paperwork until a week ago, and it was still being updated by Prime Prep during the last week.
Typically, the transfer of a big-time college recruit will be scrutinized. The parents might appear before the executive committee and perhaps the player, too. The player’s new coach might speak in defense of the player’s transfer.
That’s for one big-time player. On Wednesday, the 11-3A executive committee ruled on three of them in a span of five minutes. Mudiay (scholarship offers from Kentucky and Kansas) and Shepherd (orally committed to TCU) got red lights and Mickey (orally committed to LSU) got the green.
“I’m surprised and I’m outraged that we could pass all of the other children, except for a handful, under the same set of circumstances,” Prime Prep co-founder D.L. Wallace said. “Our organization is prepared to go to the fullest extent to take care of our children.”
That means appealing to the UIL. That might get some more Prime Prep athletes eligible, but the UIL might look at four players from the same basketball team transferring, along with Grace Prep-turned-Prime Prep coach Ray Forsett, and decide Mickey shouldn’t be eligible.
This circus isn’t over yet. And even after the Prime Prep players’ eligibility is resolved, it will continue. The high-school transfer game is like a sport in itself, with kids switching schools all over.
Maybe circus isn’t the right description, because the transferring kids don’t have to jump through any hoops. They just need approval from the district executive committees, which often don’t have the resources or willingness to put teeth into the rule that forbids transferring for athletic purposes.
There’s no easy way to stop all the transferring. The executive-committee process isn’t adequate and the UIL doesn’t have the time to fairly review them. That could be why, until 1981, the UIL forced every freshman, sophomore or junior who transferred to sit out one year of varsity play.
I doubt that rule will ever return. But I didn’t see a lot of fairness in what happened Wednesday.
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