This is an archived article that was published on in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Utah High school athletes won't be allowed to transfer teams at will.

Nor will the state school board have final say on athletic conference classifications.

But while those controversial demands were removed from a school board policy that received preliminary approval on Friday, board members put the Utah High School Activities Association on notice to address their concerns in the next 30 days.

If UHSAA doesn't, one or both of those provisions could be back on the table.

"I would task the UHSAA board of trustees to work on a solution that satisfies the open enrollment statute," said school board member Spencer Stokes, "and bring that solution with regard to transfers back at our next board meeting in October."

Most of Utah's public high schools — and several private schools — are members of the Utah High School Activities Association, which governs eligibility for extra-curricular athletics.

UHSAA allows students to establish eligibility at the school of their choosing. Transferring schools after eligibility is established requires UHSAA approval.

But Utah law allows students to attend any school with available space, which some school board members say creates a conflict for student-athletes whose eligibility is bound to the pre-transfer school.

That concern, as well as disputed conference classifications, prompted the creation of a school board rule prohibiting transfer restrictions and giving the state school board final say on conference designation.

If enacted, associations like UHSAA would have been forced to adopt the rule as their own or lose the membership of Utah public schools.

"We need to give some oversight to this for the sake of the community," board member Leslie Castle said.

The rule was met with vocal opposition during a school board committee hearing Thursday night, with school and UHSAA leaders asking for time to collaborate on solutions.

Critics warned that without a transfer rule, successful programs would consolidate into "megaschools," making it impossible for smaller programs and rural communities to compete.

"It is very difficult to build [team] culture and identity when people are constantly moving in and out," said Ogden School District athletic director Ken Crawford.

Bryan Durst, the charter school representative on the UHSAA board of trustees, said that even if the school board came up with the "Holy Grail" of transfer rules, he would still prefer it be presented to the UHSAA for internal approval rather than mandated from a third party.

"We'd like rules and changes to come from within that body," he said. "To have a rule placed on [UHSAA] would slow down our ability to be reactive to the students in the state."

School board members also objected to the approach of the policy. Mark Huntsman said he preferred dialogue and collaboration to threat of force.

"I'm feeling like our organization is a little bit like a bully right now," he said.

His opposition, and that of other board members, led to the key components of the policy being removed. A revised version, with language requiring coaches to be trained on the prevention of bullying and child sexual abuse, passed the board in a 10-4 vote.

That vote was preliminary, requiring additional debate in October before final passage. During the next month, school board members are expected to meet with representatives of UHSAA to discuss consensus changes to athlete transfer rules and the appeals process for conference classifications.

Independent of the state school board debate, House Speaker Greg Hughes, R-Draper, signaled his intention on Friday to pursue legislation regarding the activities association.

A bill filed with the name "Governance of the Utah High School Activities Association" was opened, and Hughes said he is concerned that the association deals with public education funds but does not hold public meetings with public records.

"They don't have any of those at the activity association and, to the degree it impacts students and families and without minutes and public hearings to see what the precedent is, it creates more confusion," Hughes said.

Hughes is also a member of the governing board of Summit Academy, a Draper-based charter school that has been placed under sanctions by the UHSAA for violating recruiting rules.

The Summit Academy board includes David Crandall, chairman of the Utah Board of Education.

Salt Lake Tribune reporter Robert Gehrke contributed to this report.

Twitter: @bjaminwood