You're A Winner...Not!
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August 16, 1999
An MHSAA Editorial
While reading the newspaper one day, the headline
and the photo on one story called attention to the work the Attorney
General's office was doing to deal with contest entries being
sent in the mail to millions of people in our state.
The lure of "You're A Winner!" across the top of the
letter or on the envelope was proving to be too much for too
many people as they were invited to participate in the contest,
often at their own expense, and against great odds, which were
published in the fine print if they were published at all.
In essence, the Attorney General's office was seeking in some
ways to protect people from themselves, or at least to be sure
that it was made obvious what they were getting into when they
sent the entry back to the organizers of the contest.
Perhaps we need the Attorney General to step in and deal with
a similar situation in high school sports.
With means of mass communication improving all the time, and
with the desire of non-educational groups to make a buck capitalizing
on the dreams of students and their parents associated with the,
No. 1 Syndrome, more and more high school students
are being notified that they have become "eligible"
for or "invited" to participate in what it says is
a national high school championship meet of some sort.
The "You're A Winner!" jargon from the sweepstakes
reads "You Have Qualified!" in this instance. The
participant enters the so-called national high school championship
they have "qualified" for by writing out a check
not to subscribe to a magazine or buy the product but
to enter. And the check is often a hefty one at that.
Like the contest, there may be more expenses. You have to get
yourself there, house and feed yourself and your family and have
them pay an exorbitant price so they can see you perform.
But wait! There's more! Not all of the "qualifiers"
are showing up. And the college coaches who were promised to
flock to the event to see you compete in this national championship
aren't showing up either.
Kind of sounds like the "You're A Winner!" thing the
Attorney General is fighting. In the end, the TV cameras may
show up at your door, but you've got better chances of being
hit by lightning. In this case, the lure of the so-called "national"
championship blinds you into playing.
I once heard a speaker quip, "And I'm in the Who's Who of
as long as I continue to send them my money."
We're so quickly taken in and played with like a fish on the
We haven't gotten to the last part yet in fact the best
part. Playing for the "National High School Championship"
may cost you your high school eligibility. Rules in Michigan
and many other state prohibit student-athletes from participating
in these types of meets before their high school days are over.
So what's to do about this? First of all, read the fine print.
There's not any organization with any responsibility or authority
for high school sports that's sponsoring a bona fide national
high school championship in any sport. It's against the rules
of state and national organizations that do have such responsibility
and authority. And if there ever is a national high school championship,
you won't have to pay to enter.
If the "You're A Winner!" letter says you've been selected
to compete based on your high school participation, check with
your athletic director or school principal and read the rule
book. If still in doubt, have a school administrator contact
the MHSAA office on your behalf. Based on your high school achievements
alone, playing in such meets makes you a loser - of your eligibility
for school sports.
Outside of the school sports spectrum, there are many opportunities
to participate in all kinds of competitions from local to national
that will not affect a student's eligibility. Great care, though,
needs to be exercised in evaluating everything from three-on-three
basketball tournaments, to four-on-four soccer and football,
to so-called all-star competitions. Read the fine print. Ask
questions of the right people.
Because if it says "You're A Winner!" and you take
the bait, chances are your problems are just beginning.