Dont commercialize high school sports

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 11, 2006

When the University of Texas&8217; Vince Young announced his decision to enter the NFL draft Sunday morning, he held a press conference to let the world know about it.

Seems like a wise decision since the national championship game MVP&8217;s decision to go pro will likely result in millions of dollars transferring hands.

With those millions in mind, who decided that high school athletes needed to hold their own press conferences to announce where they would attend college?

As the countdown to signing day continues, many prep athletes across Alabama are preparing to announce where they will play college ball. The resulting frenzy by teams, fans and the media every time another player announces his intentions raises a couple of alarming questions.

When a student athlete makes such a big deal about the college he will attend, his excitement isn&8217;t exactly for the great pre-med program the school offers. Like it or not, ask the majority of high school athletes signing with college teams this February why they picked the school they did, and they&8217;ll likely tell you it has something to do with the school&8217;s rich football history, past trips to the NCAA tournament or storied coach for whom they&8217;ve dreamed of playing.

There are numerous debates going on in collegiate sports regarding student athlete graduation rates, the commercialization of college sports and the influence of professional athletic associations on young talent.

When the hype over high school athletes reaches the point that ESPN is broadcasting their announcements on national television, aren&8217;t we commercializing these kids before they even put on a college practice jersey?

The commercialization of college sports is scary enough, but now it seems that we&8217;re coming scarily close to making a profit off high school athletes &8212; some before they even earn their diploma.

Oak Mountain&8217;s stand-out kicker Ryan Shoemaker announced his intention to play for the Auburn Tigers on Friday, and in today&8217;s issue of the Shelby County Reporter you&8217;ll find a story about his decision. Hypocritical?

I think not.

Telling the local community about a player they&8217;ve watched since he was in junior high so they can congratulate him on his achievements and look forward to watching him perform at the collegiate level differs enormously from splashing his announcement on ESPN: SportsCenter.

It&8217;s the coaches, parents and media&8217;s job to ensure that one of the few levels of sports still clean of commercialization remains that way as long as possible.

Let&8217;s congratulate and praise every high schooler who succeeds on and off the playing field but try to avoid putting them on the publicity auction block before they&8217;re ready