Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Conference realignment: Not the only story in college sports

While shuffling in the Big 12, ACC, and other conferences has grabbed sports headlines this week, we wonder if the story with far bigger, more profound long-term implications for the future of sports in the educational setting isn't the recent NCAA decision about coverage of high school athletes by the Longhorn Network -- owned by ESPN -- and the important issues raised in ESPN's proposal to put such programming on this network.
The reason for the NCAA decision to ban the network from airing high school games is obvious: The potential conflict-of-interest related to recruiting. But as college sports networks become part of the stable of offerings of a mega-media company like ESPN, the power of the NCAA to regulate them becomes significantly weakened. At the same time, the allure of cheap programming that high school sports provides is just too attractive for outfits like ESPN to ignore.
As John Ourand pointed out in a Sports Business Daily story last week: "High school programming on television and online is exploding at such a rate that new rules seem outdated almost immediately."
Our concern is with the bigger implications of this explosion in high school coverage. How will the growing media spotlight on younger and younger athletes in scholastic programs impact the way these programs are treated in the educational setting? We already see the problems and challenges caused at the collegiate level as sports have moved away from their educational mission to an ethic around performance and revenue-generation.
And ultimately, that might be the biggest story we're seeing in college sports right now.
--Marie Hardin

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