Keeping Score

By Cindy Luis

Monday, August 2, 1999

National prep football
title plan is way offsides

IT'S three minutes of slick advertising, pushing all the right buttons.

One can't argue against a phrase such as "High school football. It's more than a game ... it's a way of life ... bringing communities together."

Or "It's where heroes are working everyday on the field ... players, coaches and administrators." "Or even "One game where everybody wins."

It's the on-air promotion video provided by Fox Sports Net, hyping its Fab 50 national high school football poll. It touts the network's commitment to prep sports, its 500 annual hours of programming on 15 regional networks in 35 states.

Voiced over the fast-paced on-screen action are promises of a weekly half-hour national television magazine show devoted to preps, with profiles of athletes, coaches and administrators. Fox Sports Net's Fab 50 poll will be released live during its prime time network show on Monday nights.

Through this magical creation, there will be generated a scholarship fund for student-athletes, as well as equipment and support funds for the Fab 50 teams. No where is it mentioned how all of these monies will be raised. (Can you say advertising dollars?)

THE oh-by-the-way ending of the video imparts its real message. Fox Sports Net has a high school football championship game planned for December 2000.

Of course, what the tape fails to mention is such a title contest is completely illegal by national high school federation laws.


"While it is just one game involving two teams, I think it's clearly out of balance with our philosophy," Robert Kanaby, the executive director of the National Federation of State High School Associations, said during a phone conversation last week. "Our position is it is not in the best interests of high school athletics."

Clearly the potential good is outweighed by the probable bad. The NCAA has enough trouble policing universities and over-zealous boosters.

Can you imagine how easy it would be to try and sway the voters of the Fab 50 to include a certain team in the poll? With promises of scholarships, equipment and trips for athletes, cheerleaders and bands, it's a scandal waiting to happen.

WHILE it is wonderful for the likes of St. Louis and Kahuku - and the state of Hawaii by association - to be recognized by the national media, the creation of a national prep football championship game would be a mistake. It's bad enough that college athletes are treated like pros; a line needs to be drawn to prevent the preps from being sucked into all the hype.

I don't know if Fox Sports Net sent the video out to the high school associations in hopes there would enough pressure to force a change in the national federation by-laws. But it is hard to imagine a network being completely oblivious to a rule prohibiting a national championship.

According to Kanaby, he and network officials met in mid-June to continue discussions over the proposal.

"It was cordial, but we parted without any decision," said Kanaby. "They do, however, plan to go ahead with the half-hour national show in September."

The Hawaii High School Athletic Association has made a good move to hold its inaugural state football championship this fall. It's long overdue, giving football the same avenue as other isle prep sports to crown a champion.

The national title game, however, is way offsides.

Cindy Luis is a Star-Bulletin sportswriter.
Her column appears weekly.

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