Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Lions star Harris a transfer case

RB left Pirates to join Raiders for Grade 12

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B.C. Lions star running back Andrew Harris transferred to Oak Park High School in his Grade 12 year.

The Winnipeg High School Football League's rookie of the year with the Grant Park Pirates, Harris played two seasons before joining the Oak Park Raiders for an outstanding final high school season, leading Oak Park to the championship final.

From there, Harris was recruited by the Vancouver Island Raiders.

He went on to win three national junior football championships, shatter B.C. Football Conference and Canadian Junior Football League records and catch the eye of general manager Wally Buono and the B.C. Lions, where he has built a stellar professional career.

Under the new transfer policy being adopted by both the Manitoba High Schools Athletic Association and the WHSFL, the football path for Harris would have been different.

"The last person that would have been affected from our school by that would have been in 2004 and that was Andrew Harris," said Stu Nixon, a teacher and head football coach at Oak Park, a grades 10-12 school.

Nixon was Harris's coach that year.

"That transfer rule, good or bad, is not going to hurt us but it's not going to address the issue.

"In Andrew Harris's case, how would his life have turned out if he hadn't transferred? I don't know. Andrew is so gifted of an athlete that he probably would have ended up someplace. But maybe not... But it worked out well for him. Do we want to turn those opportunities away from kids?"

Nixon said the real issue is "private schools have more advantages in terms of inviting and enticing kids to come to their schools than the public schools do."

Grant Park teacher and football head coach Doug Kovacs said his school is smaller and supports the transfer policy as a way for smaller schools to protect their students and defend their sports programs against big schools.

"At Grant Park, we've changed the way we do things so that we can repel the majors. We're a small school, but we've made the jump to AAA (the WHSFL's top division)," Kovacs said. "Every year I've been here, and I've been here three years, one of the bigger schools has tried to pull one or two of my kids out. We had one try to take a kid this year, a fantastic football player, but he needed specialized programming that we have available and they didn't."

The WHSFL operates independently but is working in partnership with the MHSAA on the transfer policy to maintain continuity as football players often play other school sports.

There's a case before the WHSFL right now of a boy who has been a student at three different high schools this academic year. He played football at one school last fall but has transferred twice since then with plans to play the 2014 season at the third school.

A transfer policy will put an end to that, noted WHSFL commissioner Rick Henkewich.

ashley.prest@freepress.mb.ca

"It's important to our programs. If a kid is shopping himself around, our ability to build programs is hampered," WHSFL commissioner Rick Henkewich said. "Kids talk, kids work out together. We get a few every year (transferring). It's not a widespread thing, but each situation becomes a distraction."

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 19, 2014 A10

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