Wendy Sachen has read the three pages that comprise Rule 18 of the Kansas State High School Activities Association's 2014-15 handbook.
Rule 18, the transfer section of the handbook, is intended to keep students from “school shopping,” or transferring due to activity or recruitment.
It’s also the rule KSHSAA Executive Director Gary Musselman cited when he denied Wendy’s son, Drew, a 2013 All-State honorable mention quarterback and linebacker, and his request for eligibility to play football this season for Leavenworth High School after transferring from Immaculata High School.
Under KSHSAA’s ruling, Drew is ineligible for varsity athletic competition for 18 weeks after his first day of school at Leavenworth.
Drew’s father, Sean, was athletic director and varsity football coach at Immaculata, and as an employee, Drew and his sister received free tuition to attend the school.
But, Sean received an offer from LHS to become a physical education teacher and assistant football coach in January, and accepted because of the decreased stress and increased pay.
That’s when the process, and problems, began.
“It’s just always been known that our kids would go wherever their dad goes,” Wendy said. “It was understood by (Sean) that (Drew’s transfer) would be considered a hardship. So, there were no questions asked about Drew. This wasn’t the way it was supposed to be.”
Rule 18 is thick compared to others in the handbook. With three sections and 19 total articles, pages 30 through 32 cover numerous scenarios that could come up when a student transfers.
Except for a parent’s change in employment.
Wendy defines it under Article 13, titled “Hardship.” The rule applies to transfer students who transfer due to unforeseen, unavoidable, or unusual circumstances.
“They’re just saying that it doesn’t meet the requirements of a hardship,” Wendy said. “There are exceptions — and (the KSHSAA handbook) says that — for circumstances out of his control. This is out of his control, this isn’t his choice where his dad works.”
But, Musselman and KSHSAA disagreed.
The day after Sean accepted the job at LHS, Drew was attending his first day of classes at his new school. It wasn’t until then that he learned of his athletic predicament.
“I thought I’d be OK just with my dad getting the job and following what he does,” Drew said. “I didn’t think much of it until I heard about (becoming ineligible).”
But, after the first day of school, LHS filed paperwork required for a transferring student, and it came back April 9 denied.
Once the ruling came forth, Wendy and Sean traveled to Topeka to meet with Musselman and discuss their case.
The official stayed consistent with his ruling, though he signed a waiver to allow Drew’s participation in junior varsity athletics.
Wendy planned to appeal, but she said Musselman never informed her of the rule that appeals must be filed within 30 days of the initial decision. She had read through the handbook, but missed the section detailing that rule.
When she emailed Musselman to request an appeal, she said her request was denied because it was filed more than 30 days after the decision.
In later emails, Musselman also outlined why Drew wasn't considered a hardship.
“My ruling is consistent with the Appeals Board's long standing precedent that transfer from a private KSHSAA member school to a public member school of the KSHSAA, due to to the inability to pay private school tuition, does NOT qualify for hardship transfer status,” the email read.
Musselman declined to comment when reached by the Leavenworth Times.
Drew was a four-sport varsity athlete at Immaculata as a sophomore, though he said football is his favorite sport. The Sachen house is adorned with the proof.
Pictures of the Sachen children line the walls. A majority of the pictures of Drew involve a football, whether it’s him sprinting with one in his hand as a high school quarterback, or as a 2-year old wrapping his arms around it.
Throughout his life, Drew has been coached by his father.
“Drew wants to be coached by his dad,” Wendy said. “Drew’s always been coached by his dad. It would be awkward to have a Friday night where Sean is over here and Drew’s (at a different place.)”
Drew said he would’ve followed his father to any school, and if Sean had stayed at Immaculata, Drew said he’d still be a Raider.
“(Football’s) just a big part of me,” Drew said. “Even if I went to some school like an eight-man school, I just would’ve played as hard as I could.”
LHS coach Mark Littrell said he’s noticed Drew's talent since he began attending football workouts at the beginning of the summer.
While Littrell said he heard of Drew’s success at Immaculata, he said he'd heard more about Sean's talent as a coach. A friend of his coached alongside Sean at the Greater Kansas City Football Coaches Association Missouri vs. Kansas all-star game and urged Littrell to approach Sean if a spot ever became available on his staff.
“We hired Sean Sachen because he’s a football coach,” Littrell said. “He came highly recommended. As far as with Drew, I’d never seen him play.”
Now that he has, Littrell said he’s sure that, if he was eligible, Drew would have seen the field every Friday night for the Pioneers.
“He’d have been a starter somewhere on our football team,” Littrell said. “He would’ve definitely played, probably one of the outside linebackers. You never know when the season starts, but … with his skill level, his attitude and his work ethic, I have to think that he would’ve found a way to get a starting (spot).”
The fight might not be over, though.
Wendy said Musselman told her any possible avenue within KSHSAA is now closed, with no possibility of an appeal.
But, she said she’s still searching for the answer that will allow her to watch her son do what he loves.
“I personally will not be done until he’s on the field playing,” Wendy said. “Whether that be it’s overturned and they adjust those rules … or until week eight comes. But, I continue to do research and find resources of people who can help us on our path.”