Thursday morning in Robbinsville the eligibility appeals committee of the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association will hear the case of highly regarded football standout Rashan Gary and its one that will be of interest to schools across the state. 

NJSIAA's office in Robbinsville (Google Street View)

Gary is a 6’4, 285 pound junior defensive lineman who has already received scholarship offers from schools like Alabama, Michigan, Ohio State, Penn State and Rutgers.  He spent his freshman and sophomore years at Scotch Plains-Fanwood before transferring to Paramus Catholic over the summer. 

Today’s hearing will center on allegations that he was recruited by the parochial power, which finished as the second ranked team in the state last year.  If the NJSIAA committee decides Gary was recruited then he could face a suspension and Paramus Catholic might be looking at disciplinary action. If not then he will be in uniform when they open their season this weekend.

This is not the first and certainly won’t be the last time a hearing is held on the issue of recruiting which many believe is running rampant around the state and most often involves non-public schools.  While the rules are firm the interpretation is often different about what qualifies as recruiting and officials often have very different opinions on the matter. 

When a student-athlete transfers from one school to another they must get a signed release from their previous school in order to become immediately eligible to play at the new school.  What has been a somewhat regular occurrence around New Jersey is the former school not signing the waiver, citing the transfer is for reasons of athletic advantage and that may start an uncomfortable process for all involved. 

You also have situations where parents claim their student has changed addresses and that’s the reason for the school switch. Of course those of us who follow things like this know some of those address changes are questionable to say the least.  Currently if a varsity athlete transfers without a bona fide change of address he or she must sit out the first 30 days of the season but in December member schools will vote on a proposal to extend the sit-out to 45 days and ban the transferring athlete from competing in state tournaments.

While it does seem a majority of the transfer and recruiting issues involve non-public and parochial schools it is certainly not limited to them and districts with more than one high school even deal with controversies involving their own sister schools.  Regardless of today’s ruling the issue is not going away anytime soon.