I saw Barr-Reeve junior basketball player Curt Hopf helping to sweep up after a girls’ game on Saturday night. I asked him if he knew he was a big part of my Thanksgiving dinner conversation. I told him I sat around with middle-aged men in Dubois County, as the Curt Hopf saga was discussed in the same detail as world events, the Dallas Cowboys or the benefits smoked v. deep fried turkey.
When I asked him about this, he just smiled with the uneasiness that any teenager thrust into the uncomfortable situation that he has found himself in since the start of school after transferring from Forest Park would.
In a nutshell, Hopf, one of the best players in southern Indiana, has been lawfully denied eligibility of any type by the IHSAA under rule 19-4 and the Department of Education Case Review, and is now going to court to get an injunction allowing him to play.
My problem is not necessarily with the decision to not allow him to play, but with application of the rule. The last thing that anyone wants is to create a list of players who fundamentally transferred for athletic reasons and then engage in “what about-isms.” If we did, the list would be long and distinguished.
The rule says a student must sit out a year if they are found transferring for athletic reasons, but really should have added, “unless nobody objects to a student transferring for athletic reason.”
Simply put, every school in our area has benefited from students transferring in for athletic reasons and that is undeniable. They have also suffered from students leaving for athletic reason. The problem is with the rule itself and how it is applied. If the IHSAA were to review every transfer with the same attention that the Hopf case has received, they would have to have a department working full time on nothing but transfers.
The best way to handle the situation would be to institute a new rule allowing a student the opportunity to transfer once during their high school career without penalty. Yes, there would be a degree of chaos initially and the risk of “super teams” would become a reality. However, it would take the clandestine double-standard out of play. If a player is not happy and there is an opportunity to find happiness somewhere else, let them take their chances. If they try to transfer a second time, then the IHSAA should take a serious look at that situation.
But the world of sports has changed.
For many of these kids, the “super teams” already exist in the form of AAU teams in the summer. The truth is many college coaches prefer being able to see as many top players all at one time, and for many players, this makes a high school team less relevant. For the most elite players this change has already happened.
However, no one questions a student’s motivation about changing schools because they have a great STEM/robotics program, to be a part of ROTC or a great Concert of Jazz band. No one questions students who want to change to a parochial school for religious reasons and the unfair loophole that creates with sports recruiting.
This won’t be changed this year and probably Curt Hopf won’t see one minute of time on the floor, which is too bad because he has an enormous talent that he won’t get to showcase this season.
I was disappointed to see the affidavit published; Curt Hopf did not commit a crime, and his reputation has been greatly tarnished because of it. Although questionable decisions were made by adults, it is too bad that they aren’t the ones held accountable — they rarely are.
I just know this, the big, polite kid with a broom I spoke to on Saturday seems like he is the kind of kid any student would want in his school — and any player and coach would want on their team.
IHSAA, are you listening?