Law Office of Michelle Ball Sports/CIF How The CIF Student Sports Appeal Process Works

How The CIF Student Sports Appeal Process Works


Last Updated on September 14, 2021 by Michelle Ball

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

Has your son or daughter been banned from playing sports by the local CIF office due to an alleged “sports motivated” transfer?  Or is your child banned for some other reason which you dispute (which is appealable)?  If so, it may be time to move forward with a formal appeal to the State CIF Appeals Office.  How does this process work?  

Appeals Start Way Before There Is a Need to Appeal

How things go with an individual school/site/student can vary, but usually the process starts before most parents realize the seriousness of the situation.  Let’s take transfer eligibility as our example.  Other issues may also be sent to the local CIF office and a similar process would occur.

If a parent is lucky, they may be notified that the student’s transfer eligibility is being sent up to the local CIF Commissioner.  If they are really lucky, they may be notified that the eligibility has been challenged by another school or person in advance.  Not many parents are that lucky.  As such, all parents should provide ample documentation to accompany the transfer eligibility on its initial journey to the local CIF section.  Yes, in many cases this may be overkill, but in some cases it can prevent an annoying and time-consuming appeal.  

So, the first step in the appeal process is to try to avoid any future appeal by providing good supportive documentation with the transfer eligibility form when it first goes to the local CIF Commissioner.  Otherwise, a parent may discover 
too late that someone gave the local Commissioner a slew of documents making allegations regarding the student playing which went unopposed, and of course, the CIF Commissioner ruled that the child cannot play.  

If the student’s eligibility to play is denied by the CIF Commissioner, the parent should receive a letter in the mail from CIF stating the student cannot play, perhaps due to “pre-transfer sports contacts,” “sports-motivated transfer,” “discipline causing the transfer,” or some other reason just as baffling.  If this letter comes, the parent’s only option will be to proceed to an appeal via the CIF state appeals office.  

Appeal of CIF Commissioner’s Decision

Within 15 business days (dates/timelines may always change- always re-check CIF bylaws) of the date the letter is mailed out from CIF, the family must submit a “Request for Appeal of Section’s Decision” [see the CIF Guide here for more information].  In the “Request for Appeal,” parents must list the reasons for their appeal and the basis for overturning the Commissioner’s decision.  

A filing fee must also be provided.  Students who qualify for the free or reduced lunch program at school may have their fee reduced.  Hearing documents must be mailed to the CIF Appeals Office noted on the form.

After the CIF appeal request is submitted, a hearing date will be set.  “New” documents supportive of the appeal must be provided no later than 8 business days (as of 2/15) prior to any hearing date set.  If documents which are not “new” are provided, this may cause a delay of the hearing.  This is another reason why it is very important to submit documentation when the initial request goes to the section Commissioner.  

CIF documentation notes that parents have an option to opt for a single panel member to review their matter and/or a three person panel.  I prefer the three person panel.  Panel members are culled from a CIF list of people who are generally current or retired school, league or CIF employees who are not connected to the parties involved.  Parents may bring an attorney if they so desire, but notification to CIF is required at least 5 business days before the hearing.

At the CIF Hearing

When the hearing date arrives, both parties (parents/student versus CIF Commissioner) have a limited time to present their cases, witnesses and evidence, which is explained by the hearing officer.  Both sides are responsible for bringing their own witnesses to the hearing.  After the hearing, the panel will deliberate and a decision must be mailed within 15 business days.

I have been surprised many times by the wild allegations which can be thrown around in sports matters.  These seem to come, at times, from fiction novels. Depending on the seriousness of your situation and the importance of your child playing sports, you may want to involve an attorney in your CIF appeal so the attorney can develop documents for the hearing and present the evidence in a persuasive manner.  

One word of caution: with CIF, things can change year to year.  Always check on current deadlines, submission requirements, evidence timelines, etc. when pursuing CIF matters, as I have found bylaws, etc. can change with CIF when you least expect it.  

Student CIF appeal attorney Michelle Ball helps student athletes with CIF issues across California. As a student sports and CIF lawyer located in Sacramento, Michelle Ball can assist statewide in cities such as South San Francisco, Mission Viejo, Madera, Roseville, Davis, Los Angeles, San Diego, Irvine, Anaheim, Folsom, and Fresno.