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CIF: Foreign Students Will Continue to Play Varsity Sports in California

May 7, 2010 5 comments

The California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) has voted down a proposed change to CIF Bylaw 209. As presented, the rule change would have prevented foreign and exchange students from participating in sports at the varsity level in any sport participated in during the year prior to arriving at a CIF school.

Prior Story: Foreign Students Sent to The Stands by proposed CIF Rule Change

CIF Votes to Postpone Final Decision on Rule 600 Change (Outside Competition – Soccer)

May 7, 2010 11 comments

According to good sources, the CIF has voted to indefinitely postpone making a final decision regarding a proposed change to Bylaw 600. As proposed, the rule change would seriously impact club and high school soccer in Northern California.

Click here for background story

Foreign Students Sent to The Stands by proposed CIF Rule Change

April 15, 2010 6 comments

Revision of CIF Bylaw 209 (Foreign Student Eligibility)
 would limit eligibility of all students attending a member school on an approved exchange program and all foreign transfer students. Students granted limited eligibility would be limited for one year (from the date of transfer) to non-varsity competition in the CIF sports they participated in during the previous 12 calendar months but may participate in varsity competition in all other CIF sports.

(April 15, 2010) The California Interscholastic Federation’s (CIF) proposed change to Bylaw 209 (Click here to read CIF document in full) effectively eliminates foreign students’ ability to participate in sports at the varsity level in any sports the student participated in during the twelve months preceding enrollment. The CIF plans to vote on this proposal at its May 7-8 Spring meeting in Sacramento at the Embassy Suites. (Note: see end of story for “How you can help stop this” information)

CIF believes recent violations of recruiting rules by a few exchange programs requires action – drastic action – to be taken to keep things right.

“It has been extremely apparent the last few years that more and more students are not being randomly placed in approved foreign exchange programs.  Rather, through various means the foreign student is asking to be placed at a specific school [for] athletically motivated reasons. Four (4) foreign exchange programs have been placed on probation for this year for violating CIF 510.” (Click here to read CIF document in full)

The proposed change addresses CIF concerns by allowing exchange and foreign students varsity participation only in sports they had not participated in, at any level, during the past twelve months:

“Foreign Exchange students transferring under the auspices of a CIF-approved foreign exchange program from a school located outside the United States, a U.S. Military Base, a U.S. Territory or Canada to a CIF member school may be granted residential eligibility for all CIF athletic competition EXCEPT varsity level competition in sports in which the student has competed at any level of play for a school or club during the 12 calendar months preceding the date of transfer to the CIF member school. (Click here to read CIF document in full)

Simply put, no matter the level of participation during the preceding twelve months, an exchange or foreign student would not be given varsity status. JV to varsity? No. Freshman to varsity? No. Club to varsity? No.

While seemingly sensible given the proposed rules’ congruence with similar eligibility and transfer rules for US students, the rule change when understood in context of US Immigration rules around foreign and exchange students, winds up creating a situation where these students won’t be able to participate in varsity sports.

Here’s why.

First, foreign exchange programs limit student’s attendance at US High Schools to a maximum of one academic year. Once a student’s exchange year is completed, the student is required by US immigration law to return to their home country for two years before returning to the United States. (Click here to read US Immigration Laws related to exchange students)

Second, foreign students attending high school in the US on an F-1 Visa are limited by law to one year of public high school attendance. There is no limit placed on these students’ attendance at private schools. (Click here to read US Immigration Laws related to foreign students)

Given US law limits foreign exchange and foreign students attendance at public schools to one year, no foreign exchange or foreign student attending a public high school would be able to participate in a varsity sport after the limited eligibility period expired since they’d no longer attend the school or would have returned to their country of origin.

The only possibility for foreign students to play varsity sports would be through attendance at a private school since US law does not restrict the length of foreign students attendance at private schools. Here a student would have to wait one year before playing a varsity sport but the student would still be around since the one-year rule only applies to public schools.

The short here is an exchange or foreign student attending a public high school will not be able to participate in his or her “sport of record”. That’s the price they’d pay for electing to participate in an exchange program or attend high school in the US. That’s also the price they’d pay for historical recruiting rules violations done by a few schools.

Our view is this is the classic case of “kick the dog”. The real culprits are not the students. The real culprits are the exchange programs and coaches who deliberately “work the system” to get star players into varsity programs.

A better solution to enact would be to seriously penalize exchange programs, schools and coaches found to be violating CIF rules. “Probation” for violations isn’t enough. It’s a slap on the wrist that causes no pain to a program, school or coaching staff. It just means they’ll work harder to not get caught the next time.

Why not impose sanctions that matters? Something with teeth in it like forfeited games for first time violations. That would put violators on notice and certainly decrease the number of attempts to “work the system.”

Penalizing students is not the right way to handle this problem. There are more students following the rules than not. Why throw the baby out with the bath water?

If you’re reading this CIF, go after the violators not the students.

How can you help?

If you’d like to voice your displeasure with the proposed change to CIF Bylaw 209, contact CIF Executive Director, Marie Ishida via email at ishidasan@cifstate.org or call her at (916) 239.4477.  You can find CIF section commissioner contact information at http://cifstate.org/about/sections/index.html.

UPDATE: Barry Makes Local Basketball Debut

March 17, 2010 2 comments

Youth Basketball Academy (YBA) Dawgs varsity team opens AAU season at Hardwood Palace in Rocklin

By Christian Hendricks, chendricks@cifwatchdog.com

Remi Barry Recruiting WebsiteClick here

Credit: Christian Hendricks

LOOMIS, California – Remi Barry, the French national transfer student denied eligibility to play high school basketball by the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF), will finally hit the floor Saturday when the YBA Dawgs open up the Spring AAU competitive basketball season at Hardwood Palace in Rocklin. The 6’7” Del Oro High School transfer student will play alongside a lineup of Sierra Foothills League (SFL) star players from Nevada Union, Rocklin, Granite Bay and Del Oro. Also included on the roster is 6’9” Yuba City star Zack Nelson. Other key players from Colfax and Vista Del Lago are likely to join the squad.

Barry hasn’t played in a high school game since February of 2009, but worked out with the Golden Eagles all season. “I’m really excited about playing this weekend,” Barry said, “I really would have liked to play high school basketball this year, but AAU is a good substitute since I’ll be playing with and against the area’s and nation’s best players.”

Barry did not suit up for the Golden Eagles this season after the CIF ruled his transfer violated its bylaws. Barry’s appeal of the CIF ruling was denied by a CIF appeals-panel in January. Barry and his lawyer then filed for a Stay in Placer Superior Court that would have allowed him to play prior to a court hearing on the merit of the CIF’s initial denial. The plea for a Stay was unsuccessful and Barry was resigned to cheering for his teammates from the bench for the remainder of the SFL season and post-season play.

Coached by Millard “Doc” Haynes, the YBA Dawgs varsity-level travel team is expected to fair well locally and at NCAA-sanctioned tournaments in the Bay Area, Los Angeles and Las Vegas. “Last year, we put a lot of top-tier teams on notice at sanctioned events, “said Coach Haynes, “This year we expect to do even better. We expect to win.”

Founded in 2004, YBA basketball teaches local youth basketball players the fundamentals of the game in a competitive environment and provides older players with the opportunity to be seen by college coaches and potentially secure scholarships.

Barry is still a highly recruited D1 college prospect despite missing his senior year.  “We’re confident YBA will provide Remi and our other seniors with greater exposure to college recruiters and coaches,” said YBA Program Director Ken Gee, “These are talented kids who will likely be scholarship players in college next fall.” During the past seasons, several YBA players secured playing commitments and scholarships to Harvard, St. Michael’s, St. Mary’s and UC Davis among other schools.

Saturday’s tip-off is at 3:30PM on Court 2 at Hardwood Palace. YBA matches up against Carson Valley AAU out of Minden, Nevada. Hardwood Palace is located at 1091 Tinker Road in Rocklin. For more information call (916) 543-4433.

Related links:

Youth Basketball Academy – http://www.ybdawgs.com
YBA Dawgs Varsity – http://www.ybadawgs.com/P.aspx?PageId=58426
Hardwood Palace – http://www.hardwoodpalace.com/
Tournament Schedule – http://xtremehoops.us/schedule/current.pdf

The CIF’s Kangaroo Appeals Court: Where Fair is Not Fair When it Comes to Eligibility.

March 10, 2010 12 comments

The California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) trades on the premise of being fair when it comes to evaluating student-athletes’ appeals of eligibility decisions. However, a detailed review of its own rules reveals its appeals processes to be nothing close to fair. In fact, it looks more like a fraternity or “old boy” club giving itself the flexibility to dispense with fairness in arbitrary and capricious ways while taking care of its family, friends and “fraternity brothers”.

According to CIF rules, a student has the right to appeal a decision made by CIF regarding eligibility at an appeals hearing set by CIF. As detailed in Parent Handbook II: Understanding the Transfer Eligibility Appeal Process, appeal hearings are held before an impartial review officer or impartial panel of three persons.

A cursory review of the rules and words used to describe said hearing would lead most reasonable people to believe the process to be no different than a traditional court of law. Unfortunately, nothing could be further from the truth.

According the Parent Handbook:

“Appeals Panel members or Review Officers may be current or retired school district administrators or athletic directors, retired or current athletic administrators or retired Section officers. No Appeals Panel member may be employed by, or retired from, the schools, school districts, leagues or conferences involved in your appeal. The State Appeals Office sets the Appeals Panel.”

So, in the case of a CIF appeal hearing, it’s truly not possible for panel members to be impartial (definition) since the all have current or previous ties to CIF, be it directly or indirectly. A recent Auburn Journal story by Eric Gourley offers good insight into the appeals panel selection process.

Given panel members’ ties to CIF, it’s not unfair to conclude each would naturally have a predisposition to find in favor of and protect CIF. Even if panel members didn’t, the mere perception of partiality should cause one pause. It’s akin to having a fraternity brother or cousin on the jury at your own trial. No lawyer would allow such a thing to happen. It wouldn’t be fair. What CIF has is not impartial. It’s a process slanted in favor of CIF.

There is a simple solution to this problem. Add non-related individuals to the appeals panel. CIF would no doubt fight this, arguing non-related individuals wouldn’t be familiar with CIF Bylaws. While this perspective sounds reasonable, it’s a ruse. The assumption that CIF-related panel members understand the rules is simply wrong. The appeals panel I am familiar with wasn’t as familiar with the rules as one would hope and believe, especially with so much at stake. Sadly, nor was the CIF lawyer. Regardless, we’re not talking about rocket science here. It wouldn’t take too long for an “outsider” to bone up on CIF Bylaws and listen to a student-athlete’s case before making a decision.

So, what’s CIF afraid of here? Probably what it professes to seek, fairness. Introducing outsiders to the appeals process and panel instantly introduces transparency and fairness while, at the same time, eliminating cronyism and favoritism, perceived or real. We all know the stories. School A violates rules and CIF looks the others way. School B violates rules and the book gets thrown at them. CIF answer to this is, all cases are different. Alright then, if this isn’t the case, CIF should be willing to prove it by releasing facts around cases instead of hiding behind statements like, “It’s not CIF practice to release information…”

The use of the word “hearing” by CIF should also make one shudder. Clearly, CIF wants people to believe its “hearing” process is similar to that of a true court of law. You know, the one with due process and rules of evidence. Unfortunately, CIF’s “hearing” is not even a distant cousin of how you probably think a hearing is conducted. CIF’s Parent Handbook is clear about its appeal hearing procedures, “The technical rules of evidence and rules for the examination of witnesses do not apply.”

So, let’s break this down. The simplest summary is, California Rules of Evidence are NOT followed and, as such, hearsay evidence and innuendo are fully admissible and given standing. What’s that mean? It means CIF doesn’t have to prove its case with facts. A statement made by a third-party to the effect of, “I heard so and so say…” can lead to the denial of eligibility for a student athlete. Period. It’s truly an anything goes situation. The infamous, “he said, she said,” we all try to avoid is in full play.

Evidence as presented by CIF need be nothing more than innuendo and hearsay. Regardless of fact-based submissions in defense of the student athlete, ALL submissions are tragically treated equally and evaluated by an “impartial” (see above) appeals panel. Would you favor your fraternity brother or a stranger in a “he said, she said” argument?

CIF has in effect created a Kangaroo Court.

As I’ve said in previous posts, most people are too lazy to research and truly understand CIF Bylaws and rules.  Instead people take what’s implied in CIF statements at face value. The Kangaroo Court used for eligibility appeal hearings is a far cry from a true court of law. In the case of student athletes, it merely a tool for CIF to fool the public into believing there’s an appeals process, appeals panel and appeals hearing that’s fair and follows due process like our true court of law.

In the end it’s a way for CIF to continue its unfair and biased way of dispensing its version of fair while keeping the public at bay. This is indeed a sad situation for schools and student-athletes and is likely the underpinning of CIFs image problem with the public.

The fix is easy. CIF needs to establish a true appeals process for student-athletes. This is not too big an “ask” as far as I can tell.

So, what are you waiting for CIF?

And the moral of the story is…

Let’s start with the end.

“If we start interpreting every single rule, we would be so bogged down,” [CIF] Southern Section spokesman Thom Simmons said. “It would bring this organization to a standstill.” (story)

No one wants to be bogged down or at a standstill, right? In my opinion, the potential standstill or bog-down aren’t the real issue though. It’s really about the potential increased cost of having someone interpret the rules and apply them based on the circumstances. CIF believes it costs more to be reasonable. Lord knows our real judicial system relies on interpretation and gives plenty of consideration to circumstance. So why can’t CIF?

Bogged down? More expensive? Sounds plausible, but let’s think it through for a second. If reasonably-minded adults evaluated CIF decisions without its Bylaws, I bet their “performance” would be better than CIFs and it would cost a whole lot less to defend challenged decisions. As a matter of point, CIF spends more than $1.1 million each year on legal fees (document). The majority, more than $800,000, apparently is straight-up legal fees associated with defending itself at appeals hearings and in court challenges.

Here are a couple of real-life scenarios to consider – First, in 2005, “A high school relay team, among the fastest in California, is disqualified from a championship race because one of the runners is wearing different-colored underpants.” (Story) Second, “A baseball team wins its first-round playoff game, 4-0, then must forfeit because its coach, who had been suspended for a game, is seen watching — but not coaching — from down the street.” (Story)

Yes, this sounds ridiculous but in both cases CIF rules were upheld. In the case of the baseball coach, he should have probably watched the game at home via streaming video or at least from two or more blocks away. And I’m sure track fans were aghast at the sight of three chaps wearing one color underpants and their amigo wearing another.

Could CIF think for a second and be fair and reasonable here? Heck no! No one wants to get bogged down, you know. I don’t even need to go further here to have proven my point and won my bet. Any reasonably-minded adult would have clearly looked beyond these “infractions”. Especially when considering what was at stake.

Sadly, stories like this abound in California. Ask around and I’m sure you’ll quickly find someone who can tell you a story of the rigidity demonstrated by CIF in applying its rules – Rigidity that flies in the face of common sense and fairness as we know it.

 In a sorry attempt to clarify CIF’s position in regards to the relay and baseball teams, Jim Staunton, then commissioner of CIF Southern Section had this to say, “It can even appear to be a minor or a small point, but … our obligation is to uphold [CIF rules] as much as, maybe personally, we may not like to. Otherwise, there are no rules.”

Hey Jim, I hope when you and others at CIF wind up in a court of law looking for leniency, the judge looks you square in the eye and says, “No interpretation here folks. We can’t afford to get bogged down.”

Lies, Damned Lies and CIF Statistics

We all know how important the use of statistics can be to winning an argument or swaying public opinion. We also know politicians have become experts at creating and using statistics on the fly with little worry of backlash given the public’s limited appetite to question or do the research required to validate. Politicians prey on laziness and ignorance.

Apparently, CIF officials know this all to well and have no problem invoking the same strategy when it comes to getting what they want. Especially when that something is winning an appeals case or making CIF and its commissioners look good in the eyes of peers, the press, CIF members, parents, the public and, most importantly, the legal system.

In a recent article, State CIF Appeals Coordinator, Bob Wallace told the Auburn Journal, “…the CIF hears more than 100 appeals challenging section rulings statewide each year, on average. Nearly 60 percent favor the athlete appealing…” That does sound awfully good – six of ten athletes appealing a CIF decision win upon appeal. That kind of number makes it look like CIF is actually listening to appellants and upon hearing “evidence” contrary to CIF findings, overturning its original decision. On the flipside, it makes the 40% of denied appeals seem to be really bad since CIF is, after all, so accommodating when it comes to appeals.

Mother always said, “If something sounds too good to be true, it usually is too good to be true.” That’s right everyone, what Bob Wallace said was factually incorrect. Not true. Flat our wrong.

According to a CIF Economic Viability Report submitted to the State Legislature and Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in January of 2010, CIF eligibility decisions were overturned on appeal less than 40% of the time. The facts show CIF decisions were overturned only 30.4% and 36.8% of the time during the 2007-08 and 2008-09 academic years respectively. For those interested in how their section fared, the document breaks out appeals hearing results by CIF section.

Seems like the headline for this story and my mother were right.