Athletic unions are being tested with eligibility cases

There’s been a lot of publicity lately regarding student athletes who’ve transferred into Iowa to play sports due to the coronavirus wreaking havoc on other state’s prep sports programs.

With publicity usually comes controversy, and that controversy is the state athletic unions determining some athletes eligible and others ineligible.

One of the athletes that has garnered increased attention is West Des Moines Valley QB Jake Rubley. Rubley’s family moved into Iowa this summer from a Denver suburb. Colorado had postponed its football season and Rubley is a 4-star recruit signed to play at Kansas State.

Rubley played three games for the Tigers and then was ruled ineligible. He appealed to the IAHSAA Board of Control Friday and the board has five days to issue a ruling.

Two other players Mark Gorbatenko, of Clear Creek Amana, and Arland Bruce IV, of Ankeny have both been ruled ineligible this week. Bruce had a failed appeal and is now appealing to an Iowa court to be reinstated.

Rules of transfer and eligibility are geared to making sure Iowa athletes are playing Iowa sports and not just staying in Iowa for prolonged periods of time just to go school, or, in this case, play sports.

The union’s main concern is that not only are transferring families establishing a residency, but they are “making a home”.

The IAHSAA and IGHSAU have the same general transfer rule. – “In ruling upon the eligibility of transfer students, the executive board shall consider the factors motivating student changes in residency. Unless otherwise provided in these rules, a student intending to establish residency must show that the student is physically present in the district for the purpose of making a home and not solely for school or athletic purposes.

This has to be their new home, not a second home.

So it follows, and is spelled out in the eligibility rules, that having dual residences is contrary to the nature of the union statutes and goals.

“Interpreting the term “residence” to allow for multiple residences would render the General Transfer Rule meaningless..” according the unions’ GTR.

Good on the unions for keeping hold of the reins. Some student athletes, two of which are teammates of Rubley’s at Valley, have been ruled eligible.

There has to be different circumstances for the unions to make those determinations. Rubley and his attorney are screaming foul, but his family has two homes. You simply cannot make the argument of residency when you have two homes, especially if one isn’t on market.

Buying or leasing a home in a business name is also being watched closely by the unions and actions are being taken.

The union has to stay strong on the rules because it opens the doors to recruiting. Top to bottom recruiting of athletes is not unheard of, and it becomes especially onerous in Iowa counties that border other states, where traveling across state lines to quietly entice athletes is also not uncommon

With open enrollment the state ran into other issues of recruiting and put in place the 90 day sit-out for eligible transfers. There were a few exceptions where bullying or safety were considerations and the union executive board had wiggle room there. But for the most part they had to stop recruiting efforts through open enrollment.

COVID-19 is taking its toll to be sure, but we’re going to be better off for what we’ve learned. The deaths and suffering and mental fatigue of navigating it are tough enough. But this is another ancillary test and the state is passing.

The state athletic unions are learning more and more about the application and strength of their statutes.

We’re learning about the strength of their convictions.

And if you haven’t noticed, despite the hindrances of the novel coronavirus, we’ve still got some pretty good sports being played locally. Head Coach Melissa Freesmeier has the No. 3 HTC girls volleyball team dialing it again at just about the right time, and the FM Bloodhounds are opportunistic and exciting to watch. If they get the game in this week with Mt. Pleasant, it could something to see – I mean really something to see… but that’s Beside the Point.

Chuck Vandenberg is the editor and co-owner of Pen City Current and can be reached at

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