Coaches disagree on student F-1 visa plan

Ohio lawmakers may allow students on F-1 visas to compete in school sports if they are recruited by a private boarding school.

That possibility has some local coaches at odds.

Julie Raiff and Scott Molfenter are well-versed in international students. Both are area boys high school soccer coaches, Raiff at Belmont the last two seasons and Molfenter at Carroll, where the Patriots have won multiple Division II state championships.

They differ in opinions about F-I visa students.

“Sadly, the adults will screw it up,” said Raiff, whose Bison roster last season included foreign exchange students from 18 countries and four continents. “They say, look, we can get five World Cup-type players from Africa or other countries where people have less opportunities, and then we’ll screw it up.”

That’s what the OHSAA fears most and it stems from what happened at Dayton Christian High School in the spring of 2001. Following a series of stories by the Dayton Daily News, the OHSAA placed the DC boys and girls basketball programs on three years of probation, suspended both programs from the 2002 postseason, fined the school $1,000 and declared five international students permanently ineligible to play sports.

Much of that was based on improper processing of international students.

“I would hope that adults would play nice with others and be respectful to rules and conditions,” said Raiff, who favors allowing F-I students being athletically eligible.

Molfenter, who is also Carroll’s athletic director, said Carroll often has more international students than most schools, between 30-50 annually.

“The part that twists us is we have quite a few of these (F-1) kids and unfortunately they count against us for the EMIS count and competitive balance,” he said.

“We had a couple sports – not competitive balance sports – track and cross country that will probably be Division I next year because of barely being pushed over that (enrollment) limit (for D-I). If they don’t want those kids to participate (in sports), they shouldn’t count against you for athletic purposes.”

For the first time, a new competitive balance formula will be used by the OHSAA to determine postseason tournament divisions for many team sports in 2017-18. It’s a fluctuating numerical formula that takes into account which school district a student began the ninth grade, current residence and the school’s enrollment.

“I can understand where (the OHSAA) is coming from on this one,” Molfenter said. “You hope these kids would be here for academic purposes, but unfortunately, I can see where someone would look to take advantage of that or have a connection of kids who want to come over here who are talented.

“We’re one of the top countries in the world in basketball. If they’re really, really that good in soccer they probably aren’t going to come to the United States at this point in time.”

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