CIF Appeal After Denial of High School Sports Eligibility


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Last Updated on August 25, 2021 by Michelle Ball

By Michelle Ball, Sacramento California Expulsion, Special Education, sports/CIF, College, Education and School Attorney/Lawyer for Students since 1995

CIF, the California Interscholastic Federation, which governs all high school sports in California, is often mystical. Many of CIF’s rules, such as its transfer rules, are completely confusing.

When a student athlete is denied the right to play sports for some reason, the immediate and correct instinct is to file a CIF appeal. But only limited issues are appealable with CIF per CIF Bylaws.

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Transfers must be handled appropriately to ensure a student can play.

What Can A Parent Appeal to CIF?

Here are the matters that may be appealable to CIF:

  1. Following a coach/former coach
  2. Pre-enrollment contact
  3. Recruiting
  4. Club/non-school athletic team coach or person
  5. Club/non-school athletic team association at new school
  6. Moving after participation in non-school camp or clinic
  7. Athletically motivated
  8. Move to acquire athletic participation
  9. Age requirement
  10. Charge of semester of attendance
  11. Passing 20 semester credits
  12. Material or financial inducement
  13. Multiple students transferring into school for particular sports program

What is Not Appealable to CIF?

Here are the matters that may not be appealable by a student to CIF:

  1. Sit out period after transfer
    • Per CIF bylaws: “Q: My son was denied the Sit Out Period. May we appeal this ruling? A: No.”
  2. Transfer based on hardship, all bases
    • Court ordered transfers
    • Children of divorced parents
    • Individual student safety incidents
    • Discontinued program
    • Foster and homeless children
    • Military service
    • Married status
    • Board of education ruling.
    • Per CIF bylaws: “All eligibility determinations made [under this hardship section] are final as all of these hardship circumstances are factual in nature and can be documents.”

Unclear CIF Appeal Rights?

There are also areas where it is not clear in CIF bylaws whether a matter may be appealable, such as:

  1. Discipline transfer
  2. Mistake in documents submitted to CIF
  3. Scholastic eligibility
  4. Bad faith
  5. Student starts living with one parent (after initial residential eligibility was established with two parents) but there is no court order or formal custody agreement formalizing this
  6. Other areas not defined in CIF policy
Student track and field members if denied the opportunity to play sports may want to file a CIF appeal.
Track and field is a CIF regulated sport so a CIF appeal may be important if a student can’t participate.

Importance of Ensuring Schools Understand Transfer Bases

This confusing situation emphasizes the strong need for parents to ENSURE that they assist the new school in understanding and communicating the reason for the school transfer to CIF. Parents also need to provide any formal or other documents supporting the reason for the student transfer.

Parents should assist the new school when they submit the student transfer paperwork to CIF and ensure it is carefully done.

The seemingly simple CIF transfer form needs to have all evidence to support the bases for the student transfer, such as hardship or an actual change in residence by the family.

Parents also need to ensure the prior school is aware of any reason a student athlete may be transferring that may meet CIF “hardship” or other categories which could allow the student to participate in sports, so that school can also report the situation correctly when communicating with CIF.

Most parents are completely unaware of the impact a terrible CIF filing will have on the student and their sports eligibility, until it is too late. Parents need to be fully aware of the CIF transfer issues prior to enrolling in the new school so they can handle this with the student’s new coach or athletic director.

For additional reading, I would strongly urge parents to check this article out: “Rules To Remember For Logical People Dealing With CIF,” to help with the utter illogic CIF can be.

[article based on CIF rules 20-21]


Michelle Ball is a student sports and CIF lawyer helping student athletes across California with CIF submissions, transfer eligibility issues, appeals, and otherwise. As a CIF attorney for students in the capitol of California- Sacramento, Michelle Ball supports parents across California in locations such as Hanford, Roseville, San Francisco, Walnut Creek, Concord, Vacaville, Auburn, Goleta, Solvang and many other towns.