Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Preserving 'amateur' nature of high school sports

High school sports could slowly be creeping toward mirroring the collegiate levels and that would be a bad sign for “amateur” teen athletes.

The University of Texas has started its own sports network and it tried – unsuccessfully -- to gain permission to broadcast high school games (see NCAA statement). Not only could that give Texas an unfair advantage in recruiting, it could start a slippery slope that could forever change American sports.

College sports is a big business worth billions annually -- and that kind of money attracts unsavory characters. Maintaining the “purity” of amateur athletics requires extraordinary efforts from colleges and tremendous discipline from players. However, as evidenced by the abundance of recent violations, scandals and scathing allegations, college sports has been tainted by money, too.

If millions -- and perhaps billions of dollars -- reach high school athletics, is there any hope that it will escape the myriad problems college sports have had?

The media have not been silent about the growing concerns regarding prep sports – for example: George Dohrmann's recent book Play Their Hearts Out: A Coach, His Star Recruit and the Youth Basketball Machine and in older books such as Sole Influence: Basketball, Corporate Greed, and the Corruption of America's Youth by Dan Wetzel and Don Yaeger.

The economic potential of high school sports in terms of broadcasting, merchandizing, etc., is tantalizing. But the NCAA and other amateur governing bodies must stand strong and allow high school sports to remain for the kids – amateurs who play for the love of the game and don’t have millions of dollars riding on every pass, jump shot or swing.

-- Steve Bien-Aimé

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