Everything went so smoothly at first. The meeting with Henry A. Wise High School guidance counselors, summer workouts with the defending 4A state championship football team and submitting transfer papers and transcripts were all on the right track.
And then, after an entire summer of feeling like a part of the Pumas' family, Anthony Fludd Jr. was told he couldn't suit up in the Wise uniform he had been waiting to don since the close of his junior year at private school Bishop McNamara. Fludd's grades, he was told, wouldn't be converted from McNamara's plus-minus scale to Prince George's County Public Schools' grading standards. His grade-point average was too low.
“I don't care if we have to move to Mexico,” his father, Anthony Fludd, Sr. said before his son was cleared to play. “My son is going to play football his senior year of high school. One way or the other, my son is going to do what he wants to do. This is his avenue to college. My son's entire life is in front of him right now ... and you have a school system robbing a kid of his future and his dreams.”
After 10 days of sitting, waiting for his appeal to come down from the PGCPS office, the younger Fludd was eventually cleared to play, but it didn't come without consequence. He missed scrimmages, the crucial though relatively meaningless preseason tests where the depth chart can be scrambled. As a result of the missed time, Fludd's starting job at cornerback was lost and he was relegated to special teams. He sunk so far down, in fact, that he found himself as the fourth stringer.
“It hurt me because I couldn't be out there,” said Fludd, Jr., who suited up in Saturday's clash with Frederick Douglass, a 20-14 come-from-behind win against the Eagles. “I had high expectations coming to a championship team. It's just a family. I worked with them all summer.”
Athletes are changing schools at an alarming rate, sometimes “attending” three or four in a single year, but transferring doesn't quite pan out the way an athlete or his parents might expect for a variety of reasons. In this case, a rule detailing whether PGCPS would convert Fludd's GPA at McNamara, which uses a weighted system, to the county's system, was a bit ambiguous. This resulted in the miscommunication that had Fludd sit the bench for 10 days.
“The problem was that [Fludd, Sr.] interpreted the rules incorrectly,” PGCPS' Athletic Director Earl Hawkins said. “We normally don't [convert grades], but we did that in this case. The rule in our handbook just wasn't clear enough.”
In other cases, a coach may have left, and the athlete will then seek a system to better fit his needs. After Blair Mills stepped down from coaching Our Lady of Good Counsel's boys' basketball team, five players sought a new school. Byron Hawkins, for example, is reportedly on his fourth school, Clinton Christian, in the span of just a few months. Similar attrition followed in the wake of Stu Vetter's departure from Montrose Christian. Still, others will transfer expecting a boost in playing time or college recruitment exposure and find that their skill set might not be the best fit. Before long, they may land in a new school with a new team and a new coach to woo.
After the Fludd appeal, PGCPS' GPA-conversion rule now states that a student's GPA is what it is no matter the system — there will be no conversion, according to Hawkins. This clarification left Good Counsel-to-Wise transfer Trevor Brown unable to play until the first report card comes out at the end of the quarter — somewhere around the onset of playoffs. But, as Fludd Sr. pointed out, Brown is 6-foot-5 and 270 pounds. His body alone will attract attention. Fludd, Jr.'s 5-foot-9, 160-pound frame, well, not so much.
“He's an athlete,” the elder Fludd said. “He'll work his way back into his position.”
Recruiters at Kent State, Old Dominion, Bryant, and Coastal Carolina are still in pursuit — namely Kent State — and the Fludd's will not have to move to New Mexico for the son to play high school football. But the process is not always the easy exchanging of papers it sometimes appears to be.
“It's a life lesson,” Fludd, Jr. said. “It makes me want to do everything 200 percent. No jogging, nothing. I know I got to work hard. I should have [the starting job] back by the third week.”