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PAGLIA: With transfer issue, it’s all about value

Sports writer Brian Paglia

Sports writer Brian Paglia

Transfers

The number of high school students who transferred schools for the 2011-12 season and sought to play varsity sports.

School No.

Lovejoy 29

Union Grove 28

Luella 27

Henry County 23

Ola 22

Dutchtown 19

Riverdale 19

Morrow 16

Stockbridge 16

Eagle's Landing 14

Mount Zion 14

Jonesboro 12

Strong Rock 12

Locust Grove 11

North Clayton 11

Forest Park 9

ELCA 8

Woodland 7

Drew 4

Mundy's Mill 1

Source: Georgia High School Football Daily

There is no bigger controversy in high school sports than the transfer of athletes.

It surpasses all the complaining of poor officiating by referees. It eclipses all ravenous debate between North and South Georgia. It gets far more energy than whatever fiscal struggles high schools endure.

The transfer topic holds such sway over high school athletic fans’ hearts and minds that it reached two compelling crescendos this past season.

One featured a current high school athlete on record about his coach’s efforts to recruit players as he moved from one head coaching position to another. The coach was soon fired.

Another featured public schools in Class A, the state’s smallest classification, orchestrating a mutiny against the Georgia High School Association, which ended in the GHSA splitting Class A into two for state tournaments — public and private.

Of course, the small public schools’ gripe was that private schools had come to dominate Class A state tournaments because they are largely free from the restrictions against recruiting athletes that public schools must honor.

And now comes this — the Georgia High School Football Daily revealing the number of Georgia students who transferred high schools in 2011-12 and sought to play varsity sports. All sports. Not just football.

The number totaled more than 6,000.

Only 4,603 transfers were approved.

The number in Clayton County — 115.

The number in Henry County — 187.

And there you have it, transfer critics. More ammunition against the GHSA, who is increasingly faulted for its seeming indifference to transfers. More fodder to throw around on online message boards. More fuel for your angst.

Where will it get you?

Unfortunately, with the status quo — awkward classification splits, random punishments and interminable debates.

That high school students are hopping from school to school isn’t news. It’s as old as Hines Ward’s breath-taking years at Forest Park, when head coach Mike Parris had a team good enough to make the state tournament semifinals yet still marveled at how many players showed up at Forest Park for spring practice, then showed up at North Clayton or Mount Zion in the fall.

Yes, the Southern Crescent isn’t immune to transfers, and we’ve kept a casual inventory of who’s gone where over the years.

James Walker was expected to be the next Marcus Hunt at North Clayton. Instead, he’s joining a loaded Jonesboro boy’s basketball team.

Raven Wynn would’ve been a key senior on the Forest Park’s girls basketball team. Instead, she joined a loaded Jonesboro girls team.

Lovejoy’s poised quarterback, Alejandro Bennifield, was once a promising prospect at Jonesboro. The Wildcats first state champion wrestler, Gio Ortiz, was also first a Cardinal.

Senior cornerback Marquis Griffin went from Eagle’s Landing to Eagle’s Landing Christian this summer to help a Chargers football team coming off a semifinals appearance.

But don’t feel too bad for Eagle’s Landing. It’s boy’s basketball team coming off back-to-back semifinals appearances had 6-foot-7 small forward Chris Davenport (Monteverde Academy) and 6-foot-4 shooting guard Trevin Joseph (Stockbridge) join the team this summer.

All of which is to say that the Southern Crescent will always be a part of this story. It’s lost its share of student-athletes to other counties and schools, but gained its share, too.

And it always will. The debate won’t end, because at the core it’s a moral conflict.

Do we value freedom of choice?

Or do we value loyalty?

What do you value, Southern Crescent?

Brian Paglia covers sports for the Clayton News Daily and Henry Daily Herald newspapers. He can be reached at bpaglia@news-daily.com. On Twitter? Follow him at @BrianPaglia.