Florida law allows high school students to transfer schools for athletics

Well respected coach says transfers not in students best interest

College athletics is big business, so it’s no surprise the allure of a potential college athletic scholarship has trickled down to the high school level.

You’ve probably heard of the transfer portal for college athletes. It basically allows athletes to put their names in a database when they want to transfer.

State law allows Florida high school students to transfer schools for athletics, and many student-athletes transfer schools to increase their chances for a college scholarship.

But is it in the student’s best interest?

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Coach Rick Darlington of DeLand High School has seen his share of success.

He coached for 17 years at Apopka High School, winning three state titles.

“Kids want to go where there’s going to be success,” Darlington said. “Because where there is success, they think they have a chance to go to college, and they’re not wrong.”

But he does not believe it benefits students to transfer schools for athletics.

“No, I don’t,” Darlington said.

In 2016, Governor Rick Scott signed HB 7029 on school choice into law.

The law allows a student to enroll in any public school in the state that has not reached capacity.

In addition, a transfer student is eligible immediately to join an existing team if all other eligibility criteria are met, according to the law.

In an email to News 6, a spokesperson for the Florida High School Athletic Association wrote the association “does not have an accurate method for tracking student transfers.”

College recruiters estimate roughly 2,000 players transferred schools between the end of the 2020 season and July 2021.

Not according to plan

Paul Turner’s son is now a senior in high school.

When he was a sophomore, Turner allowed his son to transfer to a different school to play football, he said.

He thought it would give his son a better chance at a scholarship, but if he had it to do over, he wouldn’t allow it, Turner said.

His son didn’t gel with coaches at his new school, according to Turner, and now as a senior, his son doesn’t play football at all.

“That’s when I said I did the wrong thing,” Turner said. “I guess I had chosen the wrong high school, a high school I thought that would have been beneficial to him.”

“If you’re a good player, colleges are going to find you,” Darlington said.

“It’s not like we’re hiding them over here and you’re going to find them over there,” he said.

Still, many believe they might increase their chances at a scholarship if they play for a better program.

“Football scholarships are not based on the school you attend,” Darlington said. “For the most part. They’re based on your physical ability and your acting academic prowess and your character.”

Some parents told News 6 off-camera that there are students who would not be able to afford college without an athletic scholarship, so they are willing to take the chance transferring schools.

About the Author:

Emmy Award-winning reporter Louis Bolden joined the News 6 team in September of 2001 and hasn't gotten a moment's rest since. Louis has been a General Assignment Reporter for News 6 and Weekend Morning Anchor. He joined the Special Projects/Investigative Unit in 2014.