ROBBINSVILLE, NJ – Mark Assemblyman Benji Wimberly as the first state legislature to openly voice his disposition with the NJSIAA’s new transfer rule.
Prior to the NJSIAA Executive Committee’s final vote on the mandatory 30-day sit out period for all transfer students, Wimberly expressed his extreme discourse for the rule and how the committee went about approving the change.
“After talking to maybe 20 coaches and administrators that are friends of mine, each of them had various concerns about the transfer rule,” Wimberly said. “The one thing that was common amongst all of us was, we knew something had to be done, but we thought what was done was pretty extreme.”
Wimberly cited several arguments against the rule, specifically related to the inclusion of sub-varsity athletes and those with economic troubles.
He said students in urban areas of the state could potentially be hurt the most by this new rule. In Paterson alone, Wimberly said there are 2,000 vacant properties due to economic circumstances.
“A majority of times, in urban cities, I can speak for from working in Paterson and still working and living in Paterson is when people move, a majority of the times, its because of economics, not athletic advantage,” Wimberly said. “If we look at the state of New Jersey right now, we are number one in foreclosure rates. This is something you have to consider. When a family is evicted from a home or they have to leave because of a bank foreclosure, the least thing they should worry about is that they have transfer and sit 30 days.”
NJSIAA project manager Michael Zappichi confirmed during the discussion phase of Wednesday’s second reading (and after Wimberly had left the meeting) that those students effected by a “court ordered change of residence,” such as an eviction or foreclosure, would be immediately eligible to play.
The former high school baseball and football coach turned politician also argued that forcing a sub-varsity athlete, who could potentially be just 13 or 14 years old, to sit because of events out of his or her control defies logic and could be detrimental to their future success.
“Thirty days can mean a lot for the student when it comes to playing time or opportunity to be on the field,” Wimberly said. “Any reason that a sub-varsity player would have to sit we would like for you to consider making an amendment to.”
Wimberly also argued that a decision of this magnitude, which could potentially effect the entire makeup of high school athletics in the state, should go to the general membership for approval, not a 36-member executive committee.
“I know a questionnaire was sent out and only 100 out of 400 returned the questionnaire,” Wimberly said. “I don't think your getting a true feeling for it. Is there a rush to get this done? Is there something that needed to be done with this? Yes, but I don't think its that important that it cannot wait until the general body meeting to have the general consensus vote.”
Wimberly hinted at potential legislation if the vote passed, but did not go into specifics.
NJSIAA executive director Steve Timko said he respects Wimberly’s opinion, but that “the association has to carry out their business.”
“I appreciate him being here,” Timko said. “We offered him a chance to voice his opinion and I respect that. You know what we’ve been dealing with for years. You know what the issues are that have been out there. We needed to come to grips with that somehow. Maybe as time goes by we will see that adjustments need to be made but the first step had to take place. I’m glad it happened today.”