In case you haven’t heard, college sports are at a crossroads.
Seemingly every day, more news and opinions about the NCAA flood the newswires. Players at Northwestern vote to form a players’ union. Star athletes claim they go to bed hungry. Columnists push for athletes to be paid.
One thing is certain: With the time and effort players put in, and the billions in dollars in revenue they create, amateurism in college athletics is dead, and it has been for a long time.
That’s the beautiful thing about high school athletics; the purity. Athletes playing the game they love solely for themselves, their school and their town. There’s not much money to be made, and there’s no money to be owed. But is that about to change?
As college athletics continue to grow, so does the recruiting scene. Services like Rivals.com and Scout.com rank high school players based on their abilities, and relentlessly pressure athletes into making college choices. College football fans happily shell out $10 a month for subscriptions, and as a result, these services being scooped up and sold by major media outlets for millions of dollars. A 2007 article in Adweek reported that Yahoo! purchased Rivals.com for a price that was “in the neighborhood of $100 million.”
Not only that, but high school football is making quite the splash on the small screen. As it has done in the past, ESPN will air a full 13-game schedule of high school football games in 2014, and will air 10 (ten!) high school games on ESPNU the weekend of August 22. Obviously, it’s great to give schools and players some national exposure, but it could lead high school athletics down a slippery slope.
Is it really fair for recruiting services and cable channels to be making money off of kids that can’t vote or legally buy tobacco? At what point will media coverage of high school sports spoil amateurism, as it did in the NCAA?
I don’t think we’re there yet, especially not in southern Ohio. But I hope I’m not around if it ever does.
Alex Hider can be reached at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1931 or on Twitter @PDTSportsWriter