There is a new phenomenon in high school athletics — student-athletes transferring schools.
School transfers among Georgia High School Association student-athletes hit an all-time high in 2011-12. Over 6,000 student-athletes transferred schools last year, according to documents released by the GHSA under Open Records laws.
The release of records showed that only 4,603 transfers were approved by the GHSA. The athletes who were not approved were ruled ineligible for that athletic season.
Locally, Lowndes received 23 athlete transfers in 2011-12, while Valdosta received 17. Camden County, one of the newest members in Region 1-AAAAAA, received 31.
Colquitt County, a school heavily criticized and often believed to be receiving a high number of transfers, received just five transfers last season.
Cook and Brooks County each received seven new transfers, while Lanier County received two and Clinch County received just one.
Aside from Riverside Military Academy, a boarding school with 66 eligible transfers, South Gwinnett, a member of Region 8-AAAAAA, received the highest number of transfers last year with 59. Duluth was second with 46 and Brookwood was third with 45.
The release of numbers also proved that schools believed to receive high numbers of transfers each year, like Colquitt County, don’t actually receive as many as once believed by the general public.
Longtime Class AA state power Buford, now a member of Class AAA, received just 13 transfers last year.
The four private schools that won all-sports trophies — Marist (AAAA), Woodward Academy (AAA), Westminster (AA) and Wesleyan (A) — had only 18 combined eligible transfers in 2011-12, an average of 4.5 per school.
Altogether, each member school within the GHSA averaged 14 transfer students last year.
The numbers released, which include athletes from all sports, not just football, show how severe transferring between schools has become in high school athletics.
But some transfers are easy to explain, said Gary Phillips, the GHSA’s assistant executive director, who oversees eligibility requests.
“I realize the rich get richer (with transfers)," said Phillips. “But it's a free country. If you can buy and sell a house for the betterment of your children, why should we interfere with that?”
The 4,603 transfers that were approved by the GHSA indicate student-athletes that moved into different school zones. The 25 percent of students that failed to receive approval were largely ruled ineligible for the athletic year because they failed to move school zones and simply transferred to new schools under No Child Left Behind.
While the high numbers of transfers would usually indicate success, that wasn’t always the case last athletic year. Of the schools with the most transfers in the 16 regions in 6A and 5A, only three won region championships last season in football and three others were runner-ups. Camden County is one of the three region champions.