2021 TAIAO Proposed Rule Changes

Last Updated 06/22/21 @ 9:25 AM

ISSUE ONE
Currently, varsity football players are only allowed to participate in 5 quarters of play each week.  We are currently the only league in Texas that does not allow 6 quarters.  This creates problems for teams who desire to fill a JV schedule and it creates problems with playing JV players early in lopsided varsity contests.  

BACKGROUND

Two years ago, Tribe played a JV game on Thursday that went 4 quarters.  All JV players played in all 4 quarters.  The following night, the varsity played and the score was out of hand before the end of the first quarter.  JV players entered the game in the second quarter because they only had one quarter of eligibility 

 

The same year, we had to cancel two JV games because we needed to be assured we had enough reserve players for the varsity game those weeks.  With only one quarter of eligibility, we had to hold out twice as many players.  For example, a D1 varsity team needs some depth so they may play up to 13 players in a game.  If they have 18 on the roster the would only have 5 available for JV.  More than likely 5 of the 13 reserved for Friday night would get very limited reps (like on special teams only).  Under the current rules, these five kids get limited reps and the other 5 solid JV players don't get to play at all because you can't field a team. 

We all know that nobody in sixman varsity football wants to play past half-time if they can help it.  All coaches desire to stay healthy and less playing time for all is the best way to insure this takes place.  Nobody is playing anyone 6 full quarters a week if this goes into affect.  We are just trying to get some of these players at least three quarters of football each week.

PROPOSED SOLUTION
Amend  SECTION 425(D) of the Football Plan by changing the 5 to 6

Junior Varsity students may be allowed to dress out for a second game within a week so long as the student does not exceed playing more than the equivalent of 5 6 quarters of play for the week.

 

 

ISSUE TWO

Enforcement of the Play Down rule for players whose organizations do not comply with the current rules.

 

BACKGROUND
Earlier this year, I reported to theFootball and Steering Committees my concern with Member Organizations I know for a fact where participating in Junior High sports with players who were 14 and 15 years old before September 1 of the year.

For the past 2 seasons, Bastrop Tribe was the only organization to make an official request for a player to "play down".

 

I am confident, this coming fall, a number of freshmen on their respective varsity teams will technically be sophomores because their organizations did not request to have them play down last year on junior high. If action is not taken by the Steering Committee, this will provide them with an advantage as these players will be afforded an extra year of varsity play which was denied those who complied with the policy.

PROPOSED SOLUTION
Under SECTION 236 (A)(3)  the rule states  "a Member Organization may seek permission from the Steering Committee to authorize a student who will be 14 years of age on September 1st in the current year of participation to “play down” at the Middle School level and not initiate his/her High School eligibility".  This rule has been in affect since July of 2019.  

I would propose we add to these two new subsections to Section A of SECTION 236 - ELIGIBILITY 

4. Students who are 15 years of age before September 1st of the year they register with a varsity program, and have not received an exemption granted under Section 236, Subsection (A)(3) prior to participating in a TAIAO Member Organization the previous season, shall only have three seasons of varsity eligibility.

 5. For all participating sports, Member Organizations shall submit their junior high and varsity rosters to the Steering Committee before the commencement of the third week of competition containing the student's legal name, age, and date of birth. (This was added at the June 2021 Annual Meeting)

While this proposed change would outline a procedure for handling student's who did not affectuate the "Play Down" rule, it does nothing to address those who are currently in violation of the rule.  To this end, I would like other coaches to know I submitted to the Steering Committee back in March the following proposed solutions:

  • Solution A:

    • ​Require all organizations to submit the DOB for all players, junior high and varsity.

    • Inform all organizations whose rosters contain first year varsity players born before September 1, 2007 will automatically have these players classified as sophomores.
       

  • Solution B:​

    • Restore to all homeschool players who were forced to "Play up" a year of varsity eligibility if their DOB falls between September 1, 2005 and September 1, 2007.​

The intent is to equalize the playing field. I would prefer Solution A because Solution B (while equalizing the homeschool teams) will detrimentally affect the non-homeschool teams.

ISSUE THREE
The 14 year old "play down" rule has not been defined with respect to how it should be enforced. 

 

BACKGROUND

Two years ago, TAIAO changed the rule from requiring organizations to request a 14 year old "play up" to requesting that they "play down". Under the old (play up) rule, larger organizations like Tribe, THESA, FEAST, Royals, BVCHEA and some of the other bigger programs were playing 14 year olds (many of whom turned 15 in the season) on their JH programs.  The advantages of this were to keep their varsity in D2,  allow 14 year olds to get more playing time because there were not enough to form a JV schedule, have enough kids to field a JH team, etc.

The problem is charter and private schools do not have the same flexibility.  Furthermore, the truth is that it is rare for a 14 year old to turn 15 during the school year in 8th grade.  This is by far the exeption in charter and private schools.  

PROPOSED SOLUTION
Amend  the rules to allow 

  1. The "Play Down" rule would be modified to allow a team to have up to four (no more than 4 players) who turn 14 after January 1st of the year in which games are played.  For example, a player would be eligible if they turned 14 on or after January 1, 2022.  This would insure there would be no 15 year old JH  players during the season.

  2. The "Play Down" rule would be modified to allow the players to be eligible if, and only if, the team has fewer than 15 JH players.  For example, a JH team composed of twelve (11-13 year olds) would only be eligible to play down 2 players (these would be the 13th and 14th players).   Another example would be a team which has four (11-13 year olds) would only be eligible to play down 4 players  (these would be the 5th - 8th players).

  3. Finally, preference would be given to the youngest of the 14 year olds applying to play down.  For example, a 14 year old born August 30th would be given preference over a 14 year old born January 1st.  

ISSUE FOUR
Can a TAIAO player move to another organization purely for personal or competitive reasons? In other words, can they move from the team on one side of the street (eg WILCO) to the team on the other side (eg Royals) for reasons that are disadvantageous to their current team but are perceived as advantageous to the athlete.

I will be proposing two solutions because the ambiguity needs to be clarified either one way or the other.

BACKGROUND

In a recent ruling, the Steering Committee decided to deny a player a transfer from his current organization to our organization.  In the process of making a decision, the committee had to ultimately decide whether or not a player could transfer for personal or athletic reasons.  

The TAIAO By-Laws state the purpose of the transfer rules "Are intended to be designed to protect students who have previously participated in interscholastic competition at a Member Organization from being replaced by students who transfer for athletic or financial reasons.”

The By-Laws also state “Home school students are strongly encouraged to NOT transfer from one Member Organization to another for the purpose of gaining a competitive advantage in any given contest, event or activity.”

It would appear the Steering Committee chose to be swayed by the language of the former while disregarding the permissive language of the later as the words “strongly encourage” were interpreted to mean “shall not”.  

There are a number of reasons players transfer.  They move, enroll in a new school, or in some cases elect to move because for what appear to be personal and/or competitive reasons.  For example, I might move my kid to another organization because I don't like the coach or the fact my child is not getting any playing time.

 

The main arguments I have uncovered for denying a transfer for personal / competitive reasons are:

 

  1. The player moving to an opposing team gives the new team a competitive advantage.

  2. The player moving to another team might take a position away from an athlete already in the organization.

  3. Other leagues have similar transfer rules.

  4. If this is allowed, players will continue to transfer to the best teams and these teams will continue to win more games.

  5. If TAIAO allows transfer for competition then other teams will not play TAIAO teams.

The player moving to an opposing team gives the new team a competitive advantage.

The first problem with this logic is that it only looks at one side of the coin.  For example, what happens when a player who is on a very athletic team comes to the realization he or she will never get playing time so they opt to transfer to a team where they could get more playing time?  Should the athlete be told to suck it up and sit the bench or go somewhere other than TAIAO? It would seem disingenuous to argue good players can’t transfer but lesser players can.

Or how about the scenario which recently played out in our program where the athlete transferred from our program because we were not providing enough competition. Fortunately for them, they did not go to another TAIAO team.

 

Next, what is meant  by competitive advantage?  We all have film, we all change our playbooks every year to match our athlete’s abilities with our schemes. Coaches bounce around and change everything in a single year. To argue there is some advantage from a schematic stand point is a straw man argument to deny a transfer.  

 

Finally, if by competitive we mean only star players are prohibited from transferring then we must ask if this rule is written for the good of the organization or for the good of the athlete?  It would be obvious blocking the transfer of a star athlete is only good for the organization denying the transfer. To argue otherwise is then to take the position the organization knows what is best for the athlete as opposed to the parents.


The player moving to another team might take a position away from an athlete already in the organization.

Possibly, or the player may sit the bench at the new team.  Every year our team gets new players from out of state, moving up from JH, etc.  They all have the ability to take away the position from another player.

 

It is a sad moment when a sports organization takes the position that competition for playing time needs to be managed by the League.  Again, TAIAO is taking the position that Sally must sit the bench and like it because she can’t transfer to another TAIAO team and make someone else sit the bench.  TAIAO still is a competitive sports organization, correct?

Other leagues have similar transfer rules.

Foremost, we are not other leagues.  However, we should look to them for direction to see what is right or wrong when we make our own decisions.  

 

Public schools make it clear that the school district is foremost in their decision making process. I am not going to get into the weeds of what governs transfers but suffice it to say, the parent and athletes concerns are not a factor.  There is a long list of examples in public school transfers which common sense would tell you should not have been denied.  However, if it creates a loophole that “might be exploited” by others then the transfer is denied.

I have spoken with several TAPPS AD/Head Coaches and all of them told me that if a player moves from one school to another then there is no denying the transfer.  Yes, they have a form, yes they encourage players not to transfer for athletic reasons, yes, athletes transfer for athletic reasons and they are NEVER denied.  Sometimes the schools are less than a mile apart.

TAPPS recognizes that absent clear borders as to where you live it is like nailing jello to a wall to tell a family where their athlete can participate.  Public schools have defined territorial borders and this is the primary method by which to even begin the discussion of a transfer.

TAIAO is like all other private schools.  None of its members have borders.  We can pull our players from all over a city, county or multiple counties.  Furthermore, any other requirement ie moving) is nebulous.  What if a player’s family moves two blocks down, can the athlete transfer now to the team across the street?

The current TAIAO policy is set up for making arbitrary decisions which through time will contradict one another.  You can’t get any more nebulous than we deny or allow a transfer because we “feel like” your reason for transferring is based upon a reason we can’t specifically deny by an objective standard.  


Players will continue to transfer to the best teams and these teams will continue to win more games.

Possible.  Football players and parents may be willing to jump in the car and drive the Stephenville or San Antonio FEAST where their odds of playing in a football title game are greater than 75% over the past decade.  I don’t think these programs have been so dominant because of transfers.  Instead, more than likely, it is because they are in talent rich areas or in areas with higher population and fewer teams competing for talent.

 

When did our league become the arbiter of what is “fair” when it comes to the level of talent on teams?  

 

When we deny a transfer on the basis of athletic advantage then we had better go all the way and geo limit who can play in metropolitan areas.  Why does FEAST get to be the lone homeschool league in San Antonio while three teams in the Austin area vye for homeschoolers?

This goes back to the overarching question: are we a league looking to support athletes and families or are we a league wanting to play whack-a-mole with distributing talent across the league?

If TAIAO allows transfer for competition then other teams will not play TAIAO teams.

Never happens.  The athletes at FEAST have had no bearing on our ability to schedule. We have been on both ends of the spectrum at Tribe football when it comes to finding it easy or hard to fill a schedule.  I can tell you it has nothing to do with the Jimmys and Joes on another teams in our league. 

The only team who finds it harder to schedule is the team having success.  Our league is not what is preventing or enabling our scheduling at the varsity level.  The coaching personalities and cultures of the individual programs themselves are the largest contributing factors.

The conundrum created

Each year I address our parents, under the recent Steering Committee ruling, will I need to add the following addendum to my talk?
 

“Parents. I realize your athlete is only a freshman or in their first year with Tribe. However, please make sure this is the correct organization for your son or daughter because your commitment will preclude you from transferring to another program in TAIAO for competitive reasons for the rest of their high school career.  

To be clear, if you do not like our coaching style, if you are upset with the amount your child is playing or the position we have placed them in then you can not move to another team in TAIAO.

I realize TAIAO is the only place for competitive homeschool sports in Central Texas. To find another program you would have to enroll in a private school or move. I realize you have no idea how good, or bad, a coach I am or how much, or little, playing time Junior is going to get in the next four years.  

None of that matters because we are in a league that will not allow your child to transfer for personal or athletic reasons.

By the way, we are going to ask you to pay for the privilege of restricting this parental right and we are going to ask you to volunteer your time to our organization.”

Tribe is an organization that will always allow students to transfer; however, what if another organization appeals the transfer?

If TAIAO never denies a transfer from teams like Tribe, then this will create “unfairness” because families in certain programs will be allowed to transfer and families in others will not unless TAIAO sets some clear guidelines.

For example, Organization A denies Sally's transfer to another team for athletic reasons.  The other team accepts the transfer.  Does Sally get to transfer?  If not, is Sally stuck sitting the bench at Org A, or is she forced to be a star player on a team filled with terrible players, or is she forced to deal with a coach who she does not like, or…. etc. The list of reasons could be endless.

If Sally does not get to transfer for any or all of the reasons above and Billy does (because his team allows the transfer), then we have a problem.

PROPOSED SOLUTION ONE

If TAIAO decides to put the parent’s and the athlete’s decisions first and only deny transfers based upon non-subjective reasons.  

The current non-subjective reasons in the by-laws are:

  • Players can’t follow coaches

  • Players cant transfer because they are being justly disciplined by the current organization

  • If the team being transferred to recruited the athlete or offered to pay the athlete or their family members
     

We could debate other objective standards if needed but these all seem logical reasons to deny a transfer. 

I would propose we make the following changes to the by laws.  Amend Section 240(A)(3)by striking the bolded language

Are intended to be designed to protect students who have previously participated in interscholastic competition at a Member Organization from being replaced by students who transfer for athletic or financial reasons, including the effects of student or family shopping for schools or being recruited for athletic purposes; and, 

Amend Section 240(D) by striking the bolded language

Home School Students. Home school students, by nature, have more options to affiliate with multiple organizations in respect to their athletic and academic objectives. Home school students are strongly encouraged to NOT transfer from one Member Organization to another for the purpose of gaining a competitive advantage in any given contest, event or activity. 

PROPOSED SOLUTION TWO

If TAIAO decides to put the organizations needs first then we need to make it clear in the by-laws.

Amend Section 240(D) by striking the bolded language and adding the RED words

Home School Students. Home school students, by nature, have more options to affiliate with multiple organizations in respect to their athletic and academic objectives. Home school students shall are strongly encouraged to NOT transfer from one Member Organization to another for the purpose of gaining a competitive advantage in any given contest, event or activity.