Friday, March 26, 2021

CIF Denial of Sports Eligibility: Which Denials Are Appealable?

By Michelle Ball, California Education Attorney for Students since 1995

CIF, the California Interscholastic Federation, which governs all high school sports in California, is often mystical, and its rules are completely confusing. When a student is denied the right to play sports for some reason, the immediate instinct is to file an appeal to CIF higher ups. But only limited issues are appealable with CIF per CIF Bylaws.

What IS Appealable to CIF?

Here are the matters that may be appealable to CIF:

  1. Conflict with a coach
  2. Following a coach
  3. Pre-enrollment contact
  4. Club coach at new school
  5. Relocated coach
  6. Athletically motivated
  7. Age requirement
  8. Charge of semester of attendance
  9. Passing 20 semester credits
  10. Former coach

What is Not Appealable to CIF?

Here are the matters that may not be appealable to CIF:

  1. Sit out period
    • Per CIF bylaws: "Q: My son was denied the Sit Out Period. May we appeal this ruling? A: No."
  2. Hardship, all bases
    • Court ordered transfers
    • Children of divorced parents
    • Individual student safety incidents
    • Discontinued program
    • Foster and homeless children
    • Military service
    • Married status
    • Board of education ruling.
    • Per CIF bylaws: "All eligibility determinations made [under this hardship section] are final as all of these hardship circumstances are factual in nature and can be documents."

Unclear Appeal Rights to CIF?

There are also areas where it is not clear in CIF bylaws whether a matter may be appealable, such as:

  1. Discipline transfer
  2. Mistake in documents submitted to CIF
  3. Scholastic eligibility
  4. Bad faith
  5. Student starts living with one parent (after initial residential eligibility was established with two parents) but there is no court order or formal custody agreement formalizing this
  6. Other areas not defined in CIF policy

Importance of Ensuring Schools Understand Transfer Bases

This confusing situation emphasizes the strong need for parents to ENSURE that they assist the new school in understanding the reason for the transfer and provide any formal documents supporting the transfer. They also need to assist the new school to submit the transfer paperwork to CIF and ensure it is carefully done. The seemingly simple transfer form needs to have all evidence to support the bases for the transfer e.g. being based on hardship, as there won't be a CIF appeal if the paperwork fails to be provided.

Parents also need to ensure the prior school is aware of any reason a student may be transferring that may meet CIF "hardship" or other categories, so that school can also report the situation correctly when contacted by CIF.

Most parents are completely unaware of the impact a terrible filing will have on the student, until it is too late. Parents need to be fully aware of these issues prior to enrolling in the new school so they can handle this with the student's new coach or athletic director properly.



Michelle Ball

Education Law Attorney 



717 K Street, Suite 228 

Sacramento, CA 95814 

Phone: 916-444-9064 

Fax: 916-444-1209

WebsiteBlogTwitter, YoutubeFacebook, LinkedIn


Please see my disclaimer on the bottom of my blog page. This is legal information, not legal advice and no attorney-client relationship is formed by this posting.  This blog may not be reproduced without permission from the author and proper attribution of authorship. This blog may not reflect the current state of the law.