For the most part, Brad Burchfield and Bob Gecewich are pleased with the state of high school football.
However, neither Burchfield, who will enter his 11th season as Hartley coach this fall, nor Gecewich, who is preparing for his fourth season at Dublin Jerome, is afraid to be outspoken about certain issues, and both believe there is a problem regarding players who transfer from one school to another.
On May 16, the Ohio High School Athletic Association announced a rule change that should help curtail the number of transfers.
“About three years ago, many of our coaches associations approached us about their concern that teams were using the tournament as a recruiting tool, building teams, stacking teams,” OHSAA executive director Dan Ross said at that time. “(They could) build a team and get to the state tournament. There’s going to be good parts and there's going to be bad parts, but (the transfer issue) was probably the one that people had the most conversation about.”
Beginning with the 2018-19 school year, transfer students who do not meet one of the bylaw exceptions must sit out the second half of the season as well as the postseason.
Previously, student-athletes who did not meet one of the exceptions had to sit out the first half of the season of the sports they played during the previous 12 months. Member schools passed the new rule by a vote of 450-244.
“The sport itself is wonderful,” Gecewich said. “Some of the things going on around the sport that adults are doing is detracting from what makes the game such a special thing. (The OHSAA’s) hands are tied. (The situation with transfers is) more of a (school) district-level issue and a common-sense issue.
“(The OHSAA) is trying to do things about transfers, but when families are saying we’re moving because we want to play for this team and when you have (school) districts interviewing head coaches and they’re asking them, ‘How are you going to get kids to our school?’ That’s an issue that has nothing to do with the OHSAA.”
Burchfield, who has guided the Hawks to three state championships, takes pride in the way he has built his program.
“It’s sad,” Burchfield said of the number of transfers. “I’ve devoted my life to high school football in Ohio, and I’m embarrassed by the blatant moving around and fake apartment addresses and convenient custody. I’m embarrassed by schools that embrace it and schools that look the other way and say ‘not me’ and they did it by the book. There’s nothing like building your own team.
“I’m disappointed with the culture that many schools have and I hope that I never have to resort to that. I hope I never feel so insecure that I have to go through ‘free agency,’ because if I did, I’d want to be a college or pro coach.”
Burchfield and Gecewich served as coaches in the Central District All-Star football game June 16 at Fortress Obetz, with Burchfield guiding the Red team to a 10-0 victory over Gecewich’s White team.
“This is football and it’s central Ohio, so, of course, it’s important,” Burchfield said of the all-star game. “It’s a lot of fun. It was a great week and it was a terrific game. … The kids played with a ton of poise and class on both sides. (The game) was hard hitting, but there was no nonsense. I was appreciative of that.”
Gecewich, who has directed Jerome to three consecutive winning seasons and a Division I, Region 2 playoff berth last fall, was pleased that he could contribute to the 2018 graduates’ final prep game.
“This was important,” Gecewich said. “Brad thinks it’s pretty important and if we’re going to have (an all-star) game like southwest and northeast Ohio have, you have to get as many people committed to it as you can.”