Families Sound Off About GHSA Transfer Eligibility
Much has been said, reported, and written about the three high profile player transfers in 2020 involving Jake Garcia, Carlos Del Rio, and Chief Borders. After enduring a tumultuous year that included doubt and uncertainty about whether they’d be able to finish out their final year of high school eligibility after several moves with their families, the three standout players are playing high school football once again. The path they took to get here was anything but easy, and the families of all three players involved were eager to share their individual stories.
Chief Borders and Carlos Del Rio were teammates at McEachern High School, and each player was coming off a stellar junior season with the Indians. Then, the families of Borders and Del Rio made the decision to leave McEachern and finish out their senior seasons at other schools. Borders’ family made the decision to leave first and applied for a transfer to Carrollton High School. That’s when the problems arose.
The Borders family deferred all questions for this story to their attorney, Jason Thompson. He spoke on behalf of the Borders family and was fairly candid when asked about Chief’s transfer and the policies of the GHSA.
“There are the individual players, then there is the overall problem, which is the GHSA’s rules and bylaws,” Thompson said. “The rules and bylaws are so messed up that most people don’t understand them or what they’re about. The rules are misapplied. What’s OK for one student isn’t OK for another. Chief was the seminole case. Once Chief was denied eligibility at Carrolton, the GHSA allowed Chief to transfer again so that they wouldn’t have to admit they were wrong.”
Thompson said that when Borders and his family moved from the McEachern school district to Carrollton, he felt that they had met all of the requirements for a legitimate move and transfer, including what the GHSA defines as a “bona fide” move.
In an interview I had with GHSA Executive Director Dr. Robin Hines on “Extra Point! With Phil Jones,” he explained what it means to make a “bonafide” move: “A bona fide move is a simultaneous move by all members of the previous households. It’s where every member of a household moves simultaneously while changing enrollments. It must be a move of the entire family unit from one place to another. They must show that they have made a bona fide move into the new residence, and they must also show and demonstrate that they have fully relinquished the previous residence – whether that means having put the residence up for sale, shut the house down, turned off all essential utilities.”
Hines said it can be tough for people to fully understand.
“It is a complicated issue, but that is what a bona fide move is,” he said.
Thompson addressed the bona fide move with the Borders family.
“Chief and his family did a bona fide move pursuant to the GHSA rules, but the association simply didn’t want to admit that they were wrong when they incorrectly ruled that Chief was ineligible after the first move,” Thompson said.
Thompson said that the GHSA then suggested to him and the Borders family that a second move would be OK.
“That’s what they offered us and the rest of the student-athletes that wanted to transfer,” Thompson said. “That seemed odd.”
Thompson said that there are many issues associated with the GHSA transfer issue.
“The GHSA has control over all of these student-athletes, and there’s no due process if you don’t agree with them,” he said. “It’s a real mess.”
Chief Borders and his family eventually moved and reapplied to transfer to Heard County High School, where Chief is attending school and playing for the football team.
In the case of Carols Del Rio, Carlos Del Rio Sr. said he wanted to move his family due mostly to opportunities with his construction business, but he also pointed out that there were things he did not agree with at McEachern.
“I was simply not satisfied with certain things at McEachern,” Del Rio Sr. said.
He was quick to point out that his son did enjoy his time at McEachern, and the decision was his alone, not his son’s.
“My son did not want to leave,” Del Rio Sr. said. “I’m in the construction business, and there were opportunities that opened up in the area that included the Grayson school district.”
He said that he was looking for a school with great academic qualities, as well as a solid football program, and Grayson seemed to fit what he was looking for.
In the case of Del Rio, the problems arose with another student-athlete in the household.
“I have custody of Jevon Baker, who also played at McEachern with Carlos,” Del Rio Sr. said. “He was a senior, while Carlos was a junior. Once we decided to transfer out of McEachern, Jevon wanted to stay. He had three months left before heading off to play at Alabama.”
Del Rio Sr. said that there was a miscommunication with the GHSA related to Baker being able to stay behind.
“The GHSA initially told me that neither Jevon or Carlos would be able to play if Jevon stayed back at McEachern,” Del Rio Sr. said. “I informed them that Jevon was a senior, and that’s where the confusion came in. I thought it was then cleared by the GHSA for Jevon to stay behind while Carlos and I moved, but unfortunately we found out later once we were at Grayson that wasn’t the case.”
That is when the GHSA informed Del Rio Sr. that his son was ruled ineligible due to the entire family unit not moving together, aka the bona fide rule. Del Rio Sr. said that he should have had a better understanding of the rule.
“It’s all behind us now,” Del Rio Sr. said.
Carlos Del Rio is now at Cartersville, where he is seeing playing time at QB for the Hurricanes.
The third and final transfer issue involves Jake Garcia and his family. In this case, which has received the most attention due to an interview that Randy and Yvonne Garcia did with ESPN, Jake Garcia transferred from California to Valdosta High School, where he was ruled eligible and played in the Wildcats’ season opener.
However, following the much-publicized interview with the sports network during which a remark was made by the Garcia’s about their marital status, the GHSA reversed their initial ruling and declared Jake Garcia ineligible. The Garcia family filed an appeal, in which the GHSA upheld their initial ruling of ineligibility. According to the GHSA, Garcia gained eligibility using “false information” and did not meet the bona fide move rule. Randy Garcia said it was never really explained to them what they did wrong.
“They never gave us a specific reason,” he said. “All they would say was that it was not a bona fide move. They told us, ‘Just read the bylaws. It’s in there.’”
Randy Garcia said the ESPN interview was a mistake.
“That hurt us and, unfortunately, our son,” he said. “We would not do that if we had to do it over again.”
While these are the three biggest high profile cases, the GHSA said there are “thousands” of transfer cases each school year affecting multiple sports. Still, the cases of Del Rio, Borders, and Garcia have raised several concerns with the GHSA rules and bylaws. The most note-worthy of these appears to be the rule allowing student-athletes to transfer multiple times between member schools within a calendar school year.
Expect much more discussion to follow over the next few months and, hopefully, a change in the GHSA’s bylaws and rules. At the forefront of these and all other transfer cases is the bona fide move clause that is contained within the GHSA bylaws.
Written by: Phil Jones