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OPINION: Playing field has changed in athletics

by By Doug Chastain, Random Recollections | November 9, 2022 at 4:00 a.m.

And now news from the world of sports.

The Duncanville, Texas, boys basketball team has been forced to forfeit 15 games from last season, including the Texas 6A championship game, because it played an ineligible player in those games. The University Interscholastic League, which governs high school sports in Texas, recently made this ruling after a year of ceaseless drama.

Seems the athlete/student showed up at Duncanville last year, wanting to play for the basketball powerhouse so he could be on a winning team, and also, coincidentally, so he could get some looks from D1 schools. The UIL and Duncanville said "no" because there is a rule in Texas high school athletics that forbids a student from transferring schools strictly on the basis of playing a sport.

The athlete/student and his mother didn't like the rule, so they filed a suit and got a judge to issue an injunction against enforcement of the rule so the athlete/student could play basketball for Duncanville. The school district, stuck between the UIL rule and a judge's order, went ahead and played the kid, who helped the team get to a 35-1 record and the championship.

In September, the Texas State Supreme Court vacated the order, paving the way for the UIL to make its ruling, upholding its regulation dealing with student transfers, and vacating the 15 wins in which the athlete/student played, including the championship game.

The athlete/student leaves behind him the smoldering remains of a school's reputation, while he skips across the river and up the hill to the D1 school that signed him.

You might have noticed this, but in the last decade or so the "playing field" has changed dramatically with regard to the treatment of athlete/students. High school students in states other than Texas routinely transfer to other schools so they can, in fact, play on winning teams and get looks from D1 scouts. At the college level, students have the opportunity to get paid for the use of their names, images or likenesses and they also have the opportunity to enter the transfer portal, which allows them to play on a team for another school with immediate eligibility.

I'm not sure how I feel about this. I've always been "old school," believing that loyalty to a team and a community trumps nearly all other considerations. At the same time, I'm not sure I want anyone on an athletic roster who doesn't want to be there. And I definitely don't mind athlete/students showing up at the schools I root for who can shoot the three or run a 4.25 in the 40.

Welcome to the new age. It's the era of narcissism, selfies, NIL and the transfer portal. I'm still not sure I like this.

One thing I am sure of: there may not be an "I" in "team," but there is definitely a "me."

-- Doug Chastain is a retired teacher and is currently a large-vehicle transportation specialist for the Siloam Springs School District. (Okay, he drives a bus.) He is also a grass maintenance technician at Camp Siloam. (Yeah, he mows the lawn.) You can contact him at dougcha[email protected]. The opinions expressed are those of the author.

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