MACON, Ga. - Big changes could be on the way to try to stop high school athletes from moving from school to school just to form so-called "dream teams."
The Georgia High School Association is considering making students sit out half the season at their new school if there's evidence they moved only for "athletic purposes."
The proposal comes on the heels of a FOX 5 I-Team investigation into Grayson High School's championship team.
"I'll be honest with you," GHSA president Glenn White told a group of principals and athletic directors at the group's April meeting. "The perception right now is that we're not doing anything about this."
A Macon hotel conference room is generally not the playing field these men and women prefer. But they fear the sanctity of high school athletics is at stake.
"We're chasing our tail," complained Alexander High School principal Nathan Hand about the current system.
"We're just trying to put something in place to show people that we are trying to deter this," Atlanta Public Schools athletic director Jasper Jewell explained.
"This is a huge rewrite," assistant GHSA executive director Jay Powell pointed out. "A huge policy change."
They want to figure out how to stop what the FOX 5 I-Team discovered happening at Grayson High School and other schools across the state: athletes moving from school to school primarily to win a championship. Defensive back Jamyest Williams even posted on Twitter as if he were announcing his college choice, writing he was transfering to Grayson for his senior year because "I had to do what was best for me." It was his third high school in four years. Several other blue chip players also moved to Grayson for their senior season.
In December, Grayson won the state 7-A title.
"I think it's time for us to do something because if not, we're going to lose control," predicted Dr. Steven Craft, athletic director for the Fulton County school system and a GHSA regional director.
As Georgia High School Association members debated what to do, the word Grayson was never mentioned. But it was clearly on their minds.
"Everyone has seen what has transpired lately," Craft told the crowd. "And for the perception is there have been no consequences. You've been successful. You've won a state championship."
GHSA investigated all those Grayson transfers last year and failed to find any evidence of wrongdoing. In fact, current rules allow those sort of transfers as long as the player and his complete family really did move.
However, last month the FOX5 I-Team reported how Grayson tailback Kurt Taylor transferred right back to his original school, Newton High, just one semester after transferring to Grayson and winning the state championship. His father rented an apartment in the Grayson district in August but, according to court records, was evicted for failing to pay the rent in September. He never sold his house in Covington, even posting pictures of Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh making a home visit there rather than in Grayson.
"It's not the -- hey, we're about to move," complained Mary Persons High School principal Jim Finch. "It's the hey-- I'm fixing to go over here and rent this, and I'm going to rent a season. And I'm going to rent a championship."
And it's difficult for schools to make sure the student really moved. Grayson High School made home visits to Taylor's apartment. But the rule is to always alert the parent that a school representative is coming to make sure an adult is present for the inspection. So a surprise visit is not an option.
GHSA continues to investigate the Taylor famiy's multiple moves. Insiders tell the FOX 5 I-Team it's less likely Grayson would be stripped of its title unless new evidence surfaces the school played some role in helping a parent break the rules. GHSA tabled a proposal that would have automatically forfeited all games played by a student who failed to remain at the new school for a full year. That could have applied in Taylor's case.
Still, the atmosphere seems ripe for other big changes.
"The level of tolerance is such that they've decided we're not going to take it anymore," observed GHSA executive director Gary Phillips who is retiring next month. "So something needs to be done."
The eligibility committee proposed all future transfers sit out half the games for the following season. Their original school can waive that penalty if it believes the transfer was not for an athletic purpose. Otherwise, it's up to the "receiving school" to appeal on behalf of the student or let the player sit out half the season. The family could also choose to move back to their original school district if their appeal is denied, although it's unclear how practical that would be.
"Our desire is to create something that will deter transfers and really make sure that the kids are staying at their schools, remaining loyal to those schools and their coaches," vowed Dr. Craft. "And not just basically becoming free agents."
GHSA is also adding $25,000 to its budget for private investigator assistance. The organization wants to be able to assign retired law enforcement officers to help gather evidence should allegations surface that parents are not actually moving into the district where their child is playing.
The new transfer rule could be adopted at the group's May meeting and take effect as early as July.