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Decision Number
Matthew Worthington
Tony Worthington
Iowa High School Athletic Association
Full Text

In November 1996, Appellant Tony Worthington was promoted to a new position within John Deere. This promotion required him to move his family from Maryland to the quad-cities' area. At the time of the transfer, Matthew was a sophomore at Loyola-Blakesfield High School in Towson, Maryland. Matthew and his father reasoned that it would make the difficult transition of moving out of state easier if he could immediately make friends and play on an Iowa basketball team. In order to facilitate this plan, Appellant and his wife immediately flew both of the children back to Iowa to pick a school. He had assured his children that they could pick their school so that they would be comfortable with the environment in which they would finish their high school years.

The problem arose when they were trying to decide on a house to buy. The house they were interested in purchasing was located in the Davenport Community School District. Their realtor, however, assured the Worthingtons that they would be able to Open Enroll to Pleasant Valley. After visiting with the school administration of both districts, the Worthingtons were assured that they would be allowed to open enroll. Matthew's ability to play basketball with the team under Open Enrollment, was never discussed.

Mr. Worthington testified that he believed that the provisions of 36.15(4) did not apply to his situation because his family has never lived in the Davenport District; that this was not a case of athletic recruitment; and the realtor told them that they could open enroll without a problem. Mr. Worthington also testified that his family did not choose to attend Pleasant Valley because of athletic considerations. They made their choice on the basis of academics. He felt strongly that this Rule unfairly punishes Matthew for the "abrupt change in resi-dence" of his parents. Mr. Worthington appealed to the IHSAA's Board of Control and his appeal was denied on November 25, 1996.

Mr. Worthington argued that it is unfair to penalize students who transfer schools because of their parents' change in residence, but who are not within the intent of the prohibition on recruitment of athletes. As Mr. Saggau pointed out, the Open Enrollment Transfer Rule is taken right out of the Code of Iowa. That means that it is more than a Rule of the State Board of Education. It is an Iowa statute which has been passed by the Legislature and signed by the Governor. (See, Iowa Code section 282.18(15)(1995). This explains why Mr. Saggau and the Board of Control have never made an exception or waived ineligibility under this Open Enrollment Transfer Rule. Consistent with the intent of the Legislature, and in spite of the fact that the application of the rules may seem unfair in an individual's case, the policy must be applied even-handedly to prevent the practice of recruiting. State regulation of high school and college student athletic eligibility is commonplace with respect to transfer rules.

In the present case, the reasonableness of the open enrollment transfer rule is not being questioned by the Appellant. Neither is there any dispute about the fact that Matthew's situation does not come within the purview of exceptions (a) through (i) of the Open Enrollment Transfer Rule. Under these circumstances, we have to agree with the Board of Control's determination that Matthew must serve his 90-day ineligibility period under the Open Enrollment Transfer Rule.