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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE August 20, 1998
Contact: John Johnson or Mike Clifford 517.332.5046
Guest Editorial By MHSAA Executive Director
John E. "Jack" Roberts:
Best Of State Tournament A Bad
EAST LANSING, Mich. - August 20 - Some
in the National Federation of State High School Associations
are trying to develop a proposal for a national summer basketball
tournament between all-star teams of all 50 states and the District
of Columbia. They color it as a camp program but call it "Best
of State." It would involve over three weeks in July statewide
camps and the selection of teams to participate in a regional
tournament and, if victorious, in a national tournament.
The party line is that this effort will promote the educational
purposes of interscholastic athletics and the good things we
do in school sports, provide a healthier alternative to existing
summer camp and competition experiences for students, and restore
the role of high school coaches in the recruiting process for
However, the source of the proposal is an ad hoc marketing committee,
a group whose function has been to study ways to market the National
Federation, make money for the National Federation and promote
the "national presence" of the National Federation.
The Best of State proposal, regardless of the window dressing
of other reasons, will forever be tainted with those commercial
and crass primary objectives.
Moreover, the window dressing will not be accomplished. Best
of State will not eliminate AAU programs, will not reduce NIKE
and Adidas influence on school and college basketball, will not
remove agents, promoters and recruiting abuses, and will not
restore high school coaches to a place of prominence in the recruiting
Only when the National Collegiate Athletic Association and the
National Association of Basketball Coaches change the policies
that caused the problem -- only when they eliminate summer recruiting
and, while they're at it, eliminate freshman eligibility and
early signing -- will that problem be properly addressed and
The Basketball Coaches Association of Michigan
has studied the problem of summer recruiting abuses and loss
of influence of the school coach in the recruiting process, and
BCAM has published a position paper that concludes with only
one recommendation: BCAM does not want the summer basketball
camp and tournament program; and BCAM proposes elimination of
summer recruiting as the only solution that will really solve
BCAM is correct. The only solution to summer recruiting abuses
is the elimination of summer recruiting and evaluation periods.
And as long as the National Federation is discussing this Best
of State concept, the NCAA and NABC don't have to get really
serious. They won't have to solve the problem they created.
We doubt the National Federation's Constitution and Bylaws give
the National Federation authority to conduct a summer basketball
tournament; and to do so would cause the National Federation
to violate its founding principles. Many National Federation
Handbook changes would have to be made.
Many changes in the Michigan High School Athletic Association
would also have to occur. Whole pages of the MHSAA Handbook
would have to be ripped out and thrown away. And after all of
these changes in philosophy and policy, and all the additional
staff time and expense to run these camps and select these all-star
teams, what would we really have?
· More exposure for state high school associations and
the National Federation? Yes.
· Fewer basketball camps? No, there would be more.
· Requests for the same kind of program in other sports?
Absolutely, including most obviously volleyball and soccer.
· Less AAU involvement? Unlikely. Less NIKE and Adidas
influence? Unlikely. Fewer agents and promoters? Unlikely.
We seriously doubt the NCAA could adopt a rule which limits
summer recruiting to only the events run by state high school
associations and the National Federation. And if such a rule
were adopted, we are even less sure the NCAA could keep such
a rule in the face of political, legislative and judicial scrutiny.
The NCAA will lose another anti-trust suit, and this time we
would be co-conspirators.
These plans should be scuttled, and we should send this message
to the NCAA and NABC: "Solve this problem that you caused,
and only you can fix. Return recruiting to the school year;
prohibit recruiting in the summer."
Of the 700 plus high schools which sponsor
basketball in Michigan, fewer than 70 have anything close to
a Division I basketball prospect, and most of them have only
one such prospect. For more than 90 percent of our schools and
more than 99 percent of our basketball players, this initiative
is irrelevant and meaningless.
Moreover, a national summer all-star basketball tournament not
only will not promote local, school-year, school-based basketball
programs, it would contradict the essence of programs.
The Best of State is an initiative to promote a national organization
more than local programs. It is not an initiative that alleviates
a significant problem for a significant portion of our constituency.
Summer basketball recruiting abuses is not a problem that affects
the heart and soul of high school basketball across most of Michigan.
In Michigan, as in most of America, the problem the National
Federation is pretending to fix does not exist. This is a problem
for a few elite college-bound basketball players; so the college
authorities ought to fix it. They caused the problem by allowing
summer recruiting and evaluation periods. They can solve the
problem by eliminating those periods.
As for the interscholastic level, the need is for meaning more
than money; for a clear message about our pure, wholesome, local
programs, more than marketing of a national organization.
Best of State is a bad idea . . . one of the worst ideas in
the history of the National Federation, which was formed to halt
others from doing the very sort of thing it's now talking about
doing itself: namely, exploiting students for corporate gain.
Educational athletics are not made more wholesome by conducting
under the label of schools what we oppose under the label of
In 1937, Lawrence University President Henry Merritt Wriston
said, "The institution which exploits youth for profit or
publicity betrays its calling; it impairs or destroys its capacity
to fulfill its function."
Addressing college athletics today (including the debasing recruiting
process and the year-round pressures on coaches and athletes),
Drury College Soccer Coach Rick Burns wrote in the June 29, 1998
NCAA News: "We are losing our way. We need to find a way
back from this athletics excess . . . It's unheard of in our
society for someone to say, 'Stop now, that's enough.'"
For high school athletics in Michigan, and we think in many
other states, we are still able to say, "Stop now, that's