High school athletes transfer schools to support their athletic careers


Mariajose Vera

Varsity football cornerback Luke Evans (7), prepares for Marjory Stoneman Douglas’ Homecoming game against Deerfield Beach High. Evans transferred to MSD from Saint John Paul II Academy and has already received a Division 1 football offer from Iowa State University.

Reece Gary and David Lopez

As high school athletes look to grow their skills and talents, some take every opportunity they get, including changing schools. Students transferring schools for sports is more common than it may seem, especially across 32 sanctioned sports, including basketball, baseball, football and lacrosse.

In 2016 the Florida Legislature passed HB-7029 requiring the Florida High School Athletic Association to create bylaws that allow students who transfer schools to be immediately eligible to play. HB-7029 became Florida State Statute 1006.20.

The FHSAA predicted that over 280,000 high school students would transfer schools for sports in 2018. The prediction proved correct as the number of transfers nearly surpassed the previous prediction by 2019, and has substantially grown ever since.

Transferring can be motivated by numerous factors, differing for each athlete. These motivations include seeking a greater opportunity to display talent to colleges, finding a team that provides a larger possibility for success and championships and wanting to play with better teammates or coaches.

In 2020, schools across the nation shut down to protect students and staff from the dangers of COVID-19. Jevaughn Morris, then a junior, was among the thousands of student athletes disappointed in the obstacle that prevented the advancement of their athletic careers. When school sports began to reopen for the 2020-2021 school year, Morris was quick to seek the best way to make himself a better athlete. Ultimately, he was able to do so by transferring schools, as he made the decision to switch from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School to Coral Springs High School.

Morris went from MSD to Coral Springs in October 2020 to further his basketball career. He wanted to make the most of his athletic journey, leading him to transfer schools.

“I feel that I worked so hard during quarantine for my season to be wasted. I wanted to have a successful season by making a playoff run,” Morris said. “Ultimately, I wanted to be a part of a winning program, and Coral Springs [High School’s] coach just came back to turn their program around.”

Another transfer student, senior Matthew Burris, came to MSD from St. Thomas Aquinas High School to expand his lacrosse skills. Burris had previous connections with the MSD team, so he was quick to transfer before the 2020-21 season.

“My motivation behind transferring has to be MSD’s coaching staff, who I met while playing in a tournament, kids on the team that I grew up playing with and the team’s coaching philosophy,” Burris said.

Burris is a prime example of how the 2016 Florida transfer law provides opportunities for students to expand their athletic career to fit their needs and goals, as a result of the bill’s flexibility.

Before the law was passed, Burris’s journey to becoming an MSD player would have been restricted by regulations and wait periods that caused some athletes to lose full seasons before the transfer would be processed. However, with the changes in recent years, Burris was able to quickly transition into a new life as an MSD student-athlete who could try out and play for the lacrosse team by the start of the season.

As student athletes pursue their desire to switch schools, they must undergo the transferring process. State law and FHSAA’s bylaws allow student athletes to submit their transfer request at any point in the school year, given that it is before the start of their sport’s season. Additionally, this flexibility allows for student athletes to immediately join their new school’s program to be eligible for competition, given that they have completed the transfer process.

Students are able to transfer to any desired Florida school from any zone in the state and are immediately eligible to play for their new school’s team. Students are not eligible to play if a sport’s season has already begun or if the student has already played the same sport for another school in that continuous school year. State law provides an exception for these rules if a student transferred due to foster care, military or court order placements.

Many students, parents and coaches admire the simplicity of the transfer process, which easily gives athletes the ability to achieve their goals in their athletic careers.

“Transferring schools was an easy process,” Morris said. “Within 48 hours, I was able to be withdrew from Douglas and enrolled at Coral Springs. It took some time to get the required forms, but it was a successful transition.”

The ease of Florida’s transfer process has made the state a popular destination, with more lenient transfer laws making the number of student athletes transferring schools skyrocket.

Senior Calvin Fowler transferred to MSD from St. Joseph Preparatory School in Pennsylvania before the 2021-2022 school year and quickly became one of the top contributors to the success of the varsity football team as a skilled cornerback.

“Colleges have started to look at me for football, so I feel like transferring has transformed my game,” Fowler said. “I feel like it was the best decision possible. It definitely paid off.”

The transfer process begins once a student submits their request to their school’s administration team. After a few days in review, the student’s request may be accepted or denied.

However, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic halted the transfer process and many other sports-related operations.

Amidst all the cancellations caused by the start of the pandemic during March 2020, sports seasons were put on hold for safety concerns. This meant that transfers to new schools, like other extracurricular activities, saw a sharp decline in the months the country spent on lockdown.

With Florida loosening COVID-19 restrictions earlier than many states, the decline in transfers was short-lived. By the start of the 2020-2021 school year, most schools in Florida allowed fall sports to proceed with COVID-19-related safety precautions in place. These clearances allowed for students from several states that might not have authorized sports at the start of the year to take a chance on transferring to where fall sports were being played.

Within the first few months of the year, most high schools allowed all sports operations to begin or continue, causing transfers to roll in like previous years. With student athletes attending statewide tournaments and very few shutdowns, the students who sought to better their chances at recruitment once again moved to new destinations.

Highly ranked schools in Broward County for various sports saw high transfer activity in recent months, with Deerfield Beach High School and American Heritage receiving some of the nation’s highest ranked athletes in football and basketball. According to 247Sports.com, which focuses on the recruitment of high school athletes, four recruits ranked four stars or higher have arrived at Deerfield Beach while five of these coveted prospects have transferred to American Heritage since the start of the 2019-2020 season.

Additionally, MSD has become a popular transfer school for baseball, as the team is the fourth ranked baseball program in the nation, and football, as the team has made it to playoffs the last few years.

“Florida has better football, so I felt that I could push harder if I transferred here. I liked the school and I liked the environment, so I chose MSD. The coaching staff is pretty good, and I’ve had a good overall experience with the transfer process,” Fowler said.

With students receiving the opportunity to pursue their desired schools for sports, many teams at MSD and other Florida schools have gained players in various programs. As these athletes enter programs that are beneficial to their athletic careers, they are given greater opportunities to not only become better competitors, but also better students.

“My new coach has far more connections to colleges, and suggested multiple ways that I could continue my athletic career. He nominated me for a Senior Showcase, in which college coaches were able to watch me play and contact me afterwards,” Morris said.

With the arrival of the 2021-2022 season, more transfer requests have begun to funnel into schools and MSD has received several of these players looking to join the school’s athletic program. After the lifting of many COVID-19 based restrictions and several schools re-entered athletic play, a multitude of players began moving schools in order to advance their careers.

Junior Luke Evans transferred from Saint John Paul II Academy in Boca Raton and was able to find a more suitable situation at MSD. Evans has since joined the school’s varsity football team and made an instant impact, becoming a starter on defense and offense along with being offered a Division 1 football scholarship from Iowa State University.

“The transfer was really easy. I was able to make connections quickly and the coaches are really good. I didn’t have a lot of difficulties switching over to Douglas,” Evans said.

The transfer process, although slowed by the pandemic, has still provided many opportunities for student athletes across Florida. With high school sports on the rise again, student athletes are transferring schools frequently. As students do so, the future of high school athletics has changed, with many competitive programs that show promise for the future.

This story was originally published in the October 2021 Eagle Eye print edition.