Campbell County Schools Propose 1-Year Sports Sit-Out For Transfer Students

The Campbell County School District is considering a proposal that would give it the toughest public school transfer policy in the state — a 1-year ban on varsity sports participation for transfer students.

Leo Wolfson

June 05, 20246 min read

A proposed rule in the Campbell County School District would be the strictest in the state by required a one-year sit-out for varsity sports participation when transfering schools.
A proposed rule in the Campbell County School District would be the strictest in the state by required a one-year sit-out for varsity sports participation when transfering schools. (Wyoming High School Activities Association)

The Campbell County School District is considering a new rule that targets students who switch schools for athletic participation with potentially the toughest policy in Wyoming.

The proposal would require any student who switches schools to sit out a year of varsity sports competition before playing for their new school, regardless of where they live.

The transfer portal has been a huge game-changer for college sports as the NCAA has eased restrictions on student athletes transferring schools. Recruiting and transferring to stack sports teams has also been an emotional debate at the high school level.

The Wyoming High School Activities Association now only requires that a student who switches schools sit out a year of competition if they don’t move. As long as they and their family physically move homes to a new school area, they’re allowed to start participating in sports at their new school immediately.

The general assumption under the rule is that a student has other reasons for transferring than just sports if their family is switching residences. Still, there have been instances at the high school level where that’s happened, spurred by recruitment and incentives, but not often in Wyoming.

The WHSAA one-time transfer rule does not extend to incoming freshmen or people who start playing a new sport at their new school. It also only applies to varsity level sports, so an athlete could play immediately on a junior varsity or lower team at their new school no matter what.

The Campbell County proposal would go further in restricting the act of transferring, requiring students to sit out a year from their sport even if they’ve moved.

How Much Is It Happening?

Campbell County School District Board Trustee Larry Steiger said although he supports the proposal, he doesn’t think the transfer practice is particularly common in his school district.

“Some people make it out to be bigger than it is,” Steiger said. “It’s only two to three people doing it.”

But in certain sports, a single player can make a monumental difference in determining a team’s success.

When Thunder Basin High School first opened in 2017, a mass exodus of players left Campbell County High School to join the new Thunder Basin teams. Notably was that nearly all of the varsity football and wrestling teams chose Thunder Basin over Campbell County.

That was an unusual situation as the school district allowed incoming juniors and seniors, as well as roughly 90 sophomores, to choose what school they wanted to attend in Thunder Basin’s first year, according to a 2022 Gillette News Record story.

As a result, the Campbell County football team went winless over the following two seasons.

Geographic boundaries for school attendance are now enforced in the district, and the parity between Gillette’s two high schools has improved, posting roughly similar participation numbers in most sports.

Ultimately, Steiger said it’s a coach’s duty to be able to retain players, but he does find the practice of leaving schools purely for athletic reasons to be “malarky.” He said transfers in Campbell County have often been based on a player’s affinity for a certain coach, or lack thereof.

The two high schools in Gillette have become rivals, with the legacy Campbell County High School, left, and Thunder Basin High School, which opened in 2017.
The two high schools in Gillette have become rivals, with the legacy Campbell County High School, left, and Thunder Basin High School, which opened in 2017. (Cowboy State Daily Staff)

Is It Happening Elsewhere In Wyoming?

Cheyenne South High School Athletic Director Wendy Johnson told Cowboy State Daily that students transferring schools within Laramie County for athletic opportunities is “prevalent.”

Johnson said she’s seen many students who were supposed to go to Cheyenne South sign waivers to go elsewhere or transfer and move after their freshman or sophomore years at the school.

“It’s completely athletics-motivated,” she said. “They know how to work the system.”

South is at a particular disadvantage for this, as its teams aren’t historically as strong as its in-town rivals, Cheyenne East and Central high schools.

But Johnson said the transfer practice also has benefited South in scenarios where students have transferred in to get more playing time than they were receiving at their previous home schools.

This was partially the case with recent graduate Keelan Anderson, who transferred to South for his senior year from Central to get increased field goal kicking opportunities. Anderson ended up breaking the previous Wyoming record for the longest field goal kicked at 61 yards. He will kick for the University of Wyoming this fall as a preferred walk-on.

Stricter Rules Wanted

Even so, Johnson said she still finds the transfer practice frustrating and wishes there were stricter rules in place statewide, even though sports transfers are primarily limited to larger population areas where students have more choices for schools.

“We’ve got boundaries so why is that not enforced?” she questioned.

She previously worked as an athletic director in Idaho, which has stricter policies requiring an athlete to sit out a year unless he or she moved 50 miles or farther away from their original school.

“If they had this, students would have to think about it more from the get-go,” she said.

Johnson said the transfer practice has been fueled by ultra competitive coaches and a misperception that the grass is always greener in another program. She said the fact that her school’s junior high has a much lower participation rate in activities than other junior high schools in the school district shows that recruiting is happening well before students get to high school.

Ultimately, she doesn’t believe how competitive a high school is in a sport will determine whether an athlete gets a college athletic scholarship or not while playing there.

Even in smaller population areas of the state like Park County there’s a potential for competition-driven transfers, where Cody and Powell high schools are only about 25 minutes apart and compete at the same level in most sports.

But Leigh Tuten, an administrative assistant in the activities office at Cody High School, said athletics-based transfers between the two schools is rare.

In Natrona County, the issue is for the most part nonexistent, said Natrona County High School football coach Steve Harshman, as his school district does not have geographical boundaries for attendance at either of its two main high schools.

“I haven’t heard of one time in 33 years where that’s happened,” Harshman said.

This creates less incentive to move homes but also creates an interesting loophole in that as long as a student moves anywhere else in the county from their current home, they don’t have to sit out a year from playing their sports.

There’s also a hardship waiver students can file for to get an exception to the transfer rules.

Rules also exist for preventing students who move in or out to Wyoming and a different state from playing the same sport in both states during the same school year.

Leo Wolfson can be reached at

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Leo Wolfson

Politics and Government Reporter