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The New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association will make a radical change to one of its most important rules to give student-athletes relief from the COVID-19 pandemic.

For the 2020-21 school year, students who transfer without changing residences will be immediately eligible to participate in interscholastic sports under a proposal passed unanimously by the NJSIAA executive committee Friday morning.

The NJSIAA typically allow athletes who transfer due to a bonafide change of residence to play immediately. But under those regulations, athletes who transfer without moving are required to sit out the first 30 days of a season.

The NJSIAA, which governs most high school sports in the state, defines a bonafide change of residence as a move from one public school district to another.

The one-year change to the transfer rules is retroactive to March 16, the day Gov. Phil Murphy shut down New Jersey school buildings. NJSIAA officials said the rules against recruitment and transferring for athletic advantage remain in effect.

“The NJSIAA realized that there are certain bylaws that had to be amended for the upcoming school year based on the COVID-19 crises,” NJSIAA attorney Scott Miccio said, “to ensure that our student-athletes and our member schools would have the opportunity to compete and things would still be fair.”

Earlier this week, NJSIAA Chief Operation Officer Colleen Maguire said of the proposal, “It was first driven by a financial conversation.

“Many families financially aren’t going to be able to support the tuition they were paying. They might have to move in with other family members, or (there’s) a loss of jobs.”

To be immediately eligible, students must transfer by Sept. 1 for the fall season and by Nov. 1 for the winter season. Since there was no spring season because of the virus, there is no deadline for the 2021 spring season.

The compliance package also included two other measures:

• Students who do not have enough credits to compete can request through their principal a waiver from the NJSIAA to be eligible.

• The deadline for schools to form cooperative programs was extended to Sept. 1 for fall sports, Nov. 1 for winter sports and Feb. 1 for spring sports.

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