Student transfers a growing issue for high school football

It's not a new issue. High school students have longed moved from one school to another with sports being their primary reason.

"In metro Atlanta, not just this year, for the last 20 years, it's been something that's going on," said Grayson High School football coach Jeff Herron. "It's certainly become more prevalent."

It seems to be happening more and more; and right now, it's perhaps most visible at Herron's school. Among the students transferring to Grayson in the past year were four football players each ranked among the top 35 in the state by 247 Sports. They are offensive lineman Tony Gray who moved in from Central Gwinnett, athlete Jamyest Williams from Archer and receiver/cornerback Deangelo Gibbs and linebacker Breon Dixon, both from Peachtree Ridge.

Most believe the students -- who have been friends since they were kids -- convinced their families to move closer to Grayson so they could play together for their senior seasons. As long as the families live in Grayson's district, that would not be against the rules. One player, however, says there was no plan to play together.

"It's just a coincidence we all moved in the area at the same time," said Gibbs. "No talking about it, just a coincidence, all moved in the area."

Asked if people ever doubted that explanation, Gibbs added: " I mean, yeah, they do, but at the end of the day, that's all it is. Everybody just happened to end up here. Like, 'hey, I didn't know you stayed here, I didn't know...' that's how it went."

Regardless of motivation, Grayson officials say they've been diligent to check to make sure the students' families live in their district.

"We're not breaking any rules, we're sure of it," said Herron. "As I told my coaches, told our parents, we're not going to encourage it."

So while people may not like the idea of friends changing schools simply to create a better team, that's not against the rules. The question lingers: should those rules change?

"Certainly there's some question about loyalty," said Kell head coach Derek Cook, who says he has not had to deal with as many transfers as some of his friends in coaching. "There's kids you raise in your own program, all the way from youth to junior to high school then they leave you for something they think the grass is greener. That can certainly be disappointing and frustrating. You kind of in some regard have to recruit your own kids even though they're already here."

There are several solutions floating around. One brought up by several school officials to FOX 5 would be that if a student transfers, he or she would not be eligible to play varsity sports the ensuing school year unless they get special permission. Maybe, some suggest, that would only apply if the student transferred to another school within the same county.

Another possibility is to follow Florida's lead, where the state recently started allowing students to enroll at any school they choose regardless of where they live.

"I would assume that they're going to change some type of rule in Georgia as well," said Central Gwinnett head coach Todd Wofford. "Just because between, just the parents and whatever reason that they give. It's going to be hard for the state to regulate."

Grayson's Herron added: "The way the system is written, the way the rules are written, it is easy for a kid to legally make that move. I'm old school, I went to the same elementary school, middle school, high school, never left, but that's not the reality of the world right now. Parents are able to do it and parents are going to do it."

For now, students, teams and coaches play within the rules, even if outsiders don't like what's happening.

"Everybody grew up together, brothers want to play with each other, you know?" said Gray, the Grayson offensive lineman who transferred from Central Gwinnett. "That's all it is."