Cortez: Section's transfer rule hurts Modesto High football coach's stepson

August 28, 2013 

— High school football players will kick off the 2013 football season Friday night at various stadiums around the region.

Unfortunately, for one student athlete, his season won't be kicking off until 2014.

Nathan Phillips, stepson of Modesto High football coach Richie Alkire, was ruled ineligible for the entire season by the Sac-Joaquin Section.

According to the section's bylaws, the first time an athlete changes schools — without a change of residence — that athlete must sit out 30 days. A second such move requires the player to sit out for the entire season, unless hardship can be proven.

The Alkires say they have a legitimate hardship that necessitated Nathan's second move. The section doesn't agree.

It's a case of two rights not making a right.

Nathan twice followed his dad to new coaching gigs — from Beyer to Gregori to Modesto — and never changed addresses. That much is clear.

What's unclear to the Alkires is the definition of hardship.

There are five kids in the Alkire family. One is a special-needs child with autism and the oldest daughter is attending college out of state, removing her from the child-care/transportation equation. Alkire's wife, formerly a stay-at-home mom, has returned to the workforce (out-of-state tuition isn't cheap, after all). Working at Modesto High offers Alkire greater flexibility in dealing with his family dynamic.

While that probably sounds like a hardship to most, it probably sounds like a nightmare to section commissioner Pete Saco.

Citing last year's numbers, Saco said he had more than 1,800 transfer-related cases come across his desk. To color outside the lines on case-by-case basis would be problematic.

"It would be chaos," Saco said at a recent media luncheon in Lodi. "It's already chaos."

Saco had no choice but to rule as he did. Then again, "hardship" means different things to different people.

This much is crystal clear: A young athlete at Modesto High has lost 50 percent of his varsity football eligibility.

You don't need bylaws to tell you that that's a shame.

Turlock Unified School District caught some flak earlier this month when it was reported by that overtime pay for athletic trainers would not be approved, meaning athletic trainers would not be available to work during Friday night football games for Turlock or Pitman.

Well, according to Turlock High athletic director Anthony Belew, the trainers' schedules will be adjusted so they can be on the sidelines all season long.

"We're adjusting the trainers' start times," said Belew. "Everything will be covered."

This, of course, is a good thing. Football is a high-impact sport with injuries a common part of the game. Trainers provide an invaluable service, from taping ankles and wrists before and during games, to assessing an injured athlete's ability to continue playing.

It's too bad TUSD caught so much heat since it's been way ahead of the curve — decades ahead — in having on-site trainers.

"Even when I was in high school here, there was a full-time trainer," said Belew, who graduated from Turlock in 1983.

Here's a couple of websites you might want to check out as Week Zero of the 2013 season looms: deals with all things regarding the Downey Knights. They've got separate tabs for coaching bios, school traditions and school history. It's a nice way to learn about the second oldest public high school in Modesto.

Another clever site is Like Downey's site, there's a plethora of information regarding the school's rich history. But be sure to check out the "Mick's Picks" section. It's the blog spot for coach Trent Merzon's 9-year-old son, Mickey. He comments on games and makes his weekly predictions.

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