Changes Ahead for MHSAA Transfer Regulation

Chelsey Martinez's picture

Article written and provided by the Michigan High School Athletic Association (MHSAA). For questions or concerns, please contact MHSAA at or (517) 332-5046.

MHSAAThe "sport-specific" transfer rule proposal has been circulating for nearly a year and has found support among most audiences. It was adopted by the MHSAA Representative Council at its May 2018 meeting. Under the new rule, a transfer student's eligibility in 2019-20 will be based upon that student's participation in the upcoming school year (2018-19).


A review of the transfer rule was initiated by the MHSAA Representative Council in May 2017. A Transfer Study Work Group met several times throughout the 2017-18 school year and resulted in recommendations that the full Representative Council. Revisions to the transfer rule were the subject of dozens of MHSAA meetings including AD In-service and Update Meetings last fall, meetings of coaches associations, the MHSAA Student Advisory Council and the League and Conference Leadership Meeting.

Summary of Changes

The long-standing "15 Exceptions" to immediate eligibility – such as for a full and complete residential change or for a student moving between divorced parents by completing an Educational Transfer Form – did not change.

The Council passed a more lenient rule on the one hand and more restrictive on the other. The more lenient is a change that finds a transfer student ELIGIBLE in any sport in which he or she did not participate in a game or a scrimmage in the previous school year. The more restrictive portion is aimed at curbing students who change schools for sports reasons. A transfer student who played a sport in the previous season – and who does not meet one of the "15 Exceptions" – is NOT ELIGIBLE in that sport for the next season. If a student changes schools in mid-season, the student would be ineligible for the rest of that season in that sport and the next season for that sport.

Details of the Transfer Rule

Under the new transfer rule, student's participation in the previous school year determines their eligibility in the coming year. If a student transfers schools in 2018-19 that student's eligibility in 2019-20 would be based upon the sport(s) that student played in 2018-19. In other words, unless one of the "15 Exceptions" applies, the revised rule means a transfer student has:

  • Immediate eligibility in a sport NOT played the previous season for that sport; and
  • No eligibility for the upcoming season in a sport actually played the previous season.

If the student's new school requests, in writing, the MHSAA Executive Committee may approve a waiver that reduces the period of ineligibility to 90 scheduled school days at the new school if the change of schools was for compelling reasons demonstrated with outside documentation having nothing to do with sports, curriculum, finances and school demographics. The Executives Committee also has the authority to approve immediate eligibility.

Participation under this and other rules means playing in an interscholastic game, meet or scrimmage after starting the 9th grade at any high school; it does not mean practice. It also may involve more than one sport: so a three-sport athlete who does not have a residential change and transfers would be ineligible in those sports during the next school year – but eligible for any other sport. It also means a student cut from a team – one who never entered a scrimmage or game – may transfer and play without delay for that new school's team.

The current transfer rule is not perfect and was written and updated by the Representative Council over decades. The sport-specific transfer rule is not perfect either and will likely evolve over time. The rule is aimed at solving some major reoccurring problems identified by schools, parents and students often displaced by transferring students. It may also tend to discourage students from changing schools for sports because they would be ineligible in any sport they have played in school the previous season for that sport. It will increase participation for some students who were otherwise not eligible under the current rule.