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Break The Transfer Rules of CIF And Be Banned From Varsity Sports

CIF RULES on transfers

Last Updated on September 14, 2021 by Michelle Ball

By Michelle Ball, California Education Attorney for Students since 1995

Please note, CIF rules have changed and the below is based on rules prior to July 2012.  See my new blog here on the new “improved” rules.

Sports issues are plentiful in the school arena.  A frequent issue which arises involves the transfer rules under the California Interscholastic Federation, aka CIF.

CIF governs public school sports at the high school level and in some junior high schools as well.  They write various rules and bylaws which govern how students play, who can play, and other items.  

One of the most frequent areas with which my clients have trouble involve the CIF transfer eligibility rules, Rules 206 and 207.  These are important as they can prohibit a student from playing certain sports if they change schools without meeting the CIF eligibility requirements.  The rules have changed over the years, but as of this writing, the rules basically state as follows:

  • Residence for CIF purposes (sports) is established when a student initially enrolls in the ninth grade at a CIF high school/junior high school, or when they enter the tenth grade at a CIF high school when they previously attended a junior high with a ninth grade. 
  • A student’s residence is where the student’s parent(s)/guardian(s)/caregiver lives with whom the student lived when they established residential eligibility. In other words, if they lived with their father and mother when they entered their freshman year at a high school, they must stay with them to have residential eligibility. 
  • A student may transfer a single time prior to their third consecutive semester of attendance (usually the sophomore year) without a change of residence and still retain eligibility to play. 
  • If a student transfers high school more than one time prior to their third consecutive semester without a valid change of residence, they are ineligible to compete in any varsity level sport in which they competed at any level (even if it was not at the varsity level) at the prior school, for one year.
  • A VALID change of residence means that a student plus the entire immediate family with whom the student lived at the time of establishing residential eligibility moves with them, they abandon their prior home as a residence, and they take all belongings.
  • If a parent (e.g. mother) with whom the student lived when eligibility was established remains in the home (e.g. and the other parent moves), that residence remains the student’s residence for eligibility purposes.  If the student moves to a new residence (e.g. with the father), the student loses eligibility unless they receive a hardship waiver.

Additionally, there are many items which can still prohibit a student from playing at another school even if they change residences.  For example, the move cannot be for discipline reasons nor can a move be athletically motivated.

Here is a handbook from CIF on these rules as there has been a lot of confusion and frustration with these rules:

These are very very important rules for parents to be aware of if they are considering a transfer as a student who e.g. played basketball at the prior school won’t be able to play basketball at the new school unless the family physically moves, this was the first transfer prior to the third semester, or a CIF hardship waiver is obtained.  This can devastate scholarship hopes if a student loses their eligibility to play due to a move without a proper change of residence.

If your child is blocked from playing, they may return to their prior school (where they were eligible to play) to play sports, may request a hardship waiver, or may file a request for a CIF hearing if their hardship waiver is denied.  A panel should be convened to hear the matter.

1 thought on “Break The Transfer Rules of CIF And Be Banned From Varsity Sports”

  1. Unknown says:

    I have a question maybe you can answer. My son is going to be a JR in high school next year and has a learning disability. I notice that his grades are not getting better because of the class sizes and there's no one on one help. My husband and I decided to put him into a private school becuase of they have smaller class sizes, plus the free tutoring which would help my son improve his grades. He also has been playing baseball as a JV and I know that CIF rules would effect him playing baseball for varsity next year. Would we be able to appeal based on his learning disability apply for hardship?


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