There's been a lot of talk about allegations of local high school athletic programs having illegal contact or recruiting athletes from other Okaloosa County schools.
If you missed it, seven key Fort Walton Beach High School football players transferred to Niceville High School in just a few days, and some people at Fort Walton Beach questioned motives behind the transfers.
While Niceville High School was cleared of any wrongdoing, a school board investigation showed that an assistant coach made an illegal in-home visit to a current Crestview High School athlete after the athlete's eighth-grade year.
I have been covering Okaloosa County sports since January of 2001. At one time or another in the last 13-plus years I've heard accusations and innuendo about almost every school in the county allegedly recruiting.
Do I believe Okaloosa County high schools recruit players from other schools? It's possible; several well-placed sources across the county have told me things off the record.
While working for the Northwest Florida Daily News several years ago I received several anonymous calls — complete with a blocked phone number and a disguised voice — accusing a high school of recruiting.
Can I prove the recruiting? No, not without more to go on.
I believe the best solution to curb what can appear to be recruiting is to have stricter transfer rules at state and local levels.
The Florida High School Athletic Association has an open policy on athlete transfers as long as the transfer is approved by the governing school district.
In other words, if a parent in Crestview had enough wealth to fly his or her son or daughter to and from a school in Miami each day so the student could play a certain sport, and the Miami school district approved, the FHSAA would allow it. Of course, the FHSAA doesn't have to worry about classroom sizes and having enough teachers on staff.
I believe the FHSAA has some fairly strong policies to discourage recruiting. But as I've learned, proving recruiting can be difficult — if not impossible.
I think the FHSAA should take a stronger stance on athletes transferring from one school to another; it would help close some of the loopholes athletes use when school-hopping.
The real responsibility falls on local school districts and the transfer policies.
I know local athletes who have attended multiple schools looking for a starting position in their sport. I know of situations where hardships were filed even as one sibling transferred for what seemed to be the purpose of playing a sport as siblings remained at the original school.
In my time, I've heard all the stories of kids transferring back and wanting to transfer back.
Parents want the best for their children academically and athletically, but sometimes the best thing you can give a child is stability.
It often seems like parents are more interested in their child achieving athletic success than success in the classroom.
We live in a world of professional sports free agency where every athlete has the right to choose where they will play. That mentality seems to have filtered down to high school athletics and ultimately could do more harm than good.
It's time for those in power at the state and local levels to put a stop to the madness, step up and find solutions for the transfer/recruiting dilemma.