It’s another Friday Night and I am there. Every week like most High School football fans I am drawn in by the action and the experience. Is there a better venue for the money? Heck no. As a huge fan of the game and a writer / football insider I see it all. The view from the stands showcases High School football as usual. That is what you see.
But from my view on the along the sidelines with the perspective of a National Analyst I see something much different. And I am going to try and explain to you what it is I am seeing so please stick with me.
There is Light and good energy in the world. We can all agree on that because in certain points of our human existence we have felt it and been a part of it. Those special moments when the world aligns and for just a few fleeting seconds we feel ultimate warmth and happiness. We are one with the world!
Darkness falls on all of us too. No doubt we have all experienced that as well. It causes those lowest moments where in our utter despair we look to the heavens and ask for help. For some of us it becomes too much.
If we agree that there are both in the world then we understand too that they are rarely in balance. The goal for us all should be to stay in the light and be positive and attract that energy. But we all know “Dark” people don’t we? Darkness seems to follow them and flow from them.
And this darkness falls like black rain onto people and communities and yes…even onto football teams.
And when it does things go bad quickly.
The Darkness and Prep Football
In recent years technology has changed to the point we never could have imagined. Wonderful possibilities have come to reality to enhance the game. For Football this has meant better training techniques, bigger and faster bodies, film and highlights on instant demand, better concussion and injury protocols, amazing new gear and equipment, and better coaching tools. The environment is perhaps better for the game if you will. Fan engagement and commitment and support for most programs is up too!
But those new shining toys of the information super highway, meant to make our game better, have opened dark alley ways and tunnels too. Access points that are being used in ways to exploit and destroy the game.
Money seems to be the driving force but believe me when I say I have watched this thing like a cancer spreading from Stadium to Stadium around the country. You don’t see it yet; or maybe you do. I want you coaches and you fans to begin to think about your schools and your programs and to ask yourselves if some of these things are happening. Because if they are the Darkness is falling on you but you still have time to fix it. You have time to keep the torches burning and to stay in the light if it is not already too late.
Here comes the Darkness.
Paid Recruiters Out Of Control-
I have written on this matter a few times. Within your prep football world it is unlikely your kids have not been approached by someone seeking money for services. Some are legit and others Dark Sided. Some want hundreds and do a good job. Others want thousands and sell the dream for money to an every rising tide of kids and parents trying to get the edge.
“I can open doors. I can roll out a red carpet for your kid to all of my colleges I know and am in touch with regularly. Sign here, do what I say, and you will be special,” promise these types.
They display pictures of themselves with College Coaches and kids and all manner of NFL pros and imply that they can make things happen.
Maybe you have heard this one, “Just hand over the money and don’t tell anyone, especially your coaches, because they don’t know how this works.”
Then comes the promise of news stories and placement on Regional recruits lists and invites to unofficial Bowl games that mean nothing really and cost money. All you have to do is pay to be special. It’s simple right?
Those that do pay go back to their teams and in many ways they are not the same kid. No way a High School kids with that outlook on his future is going to not be changed.
We used to think there was no room for this in High School Football. But like life there is Darkness and Light in the paid recruiting game. Some of the people in this space are solid folk and are helping the right way but also frame everything with a heavy dose of reality.
With full background checks, bonds, mandatory advertising of rates and services, and licensing we can make sure our boys and their families are not being preyed upon.
Seeking An Edge Through Technology
This one is happening and I do not care what anyone says. It is. I have seen it first hand. Not only texts but pictures and Videos can be sent instantly from one person to the next around the world. So imagine if someone on the field close enough to hear what is being said on a sideline wanted to take advantage?
Three years ago in the playoffs in Oregon we witnessed two men on the Visitors side flank the opposing teams box (20 yard line to 20 yard line) and proceed to stay on their phones for the entire first and second half; hanging up only for halftime. They had no badges for Media like most of us. But they did have on the hats and logos of the home team.
As I watched them they watched the game, and then looked up, and listened and looked up again. And this went on almost the whole game. I do not know who they were speaking to. And it does not matter. But the very real potential is there that they relayed information to someone who could have used it to gain an edge. The more I watched them the more nervous they got. Eventually late in the game they left. But they never cheered once, never took a picture, just talked to someone.
In another example we saw in Round 2 of the OSAA playoffs last season I watched as a booster or Coach from a big powerhouse program walked from the 50 yard line to the goal line every time the opposing team got close to scoring. He was filming video and barking out what sounded like audibles to the kids. I spoke to him at one point and he said he was filming for the team. The fact he went into the locker room at half time with his camera was concerning.
As the game was winding down and within 1 score he went back to the goal line. More barking. More Film. And back he went to 50 yard line where he spoke to two of the positional coaches. His team won in a thriller. Did his machinations help? I don’t know. But they were a violation of OSAA rules.
All of this is being discussed as we all get more wired up. There are controls we can all agree on but in the end it will be up to each team and administration to manage the rules of engagement.
Both examples of something that did not look right and could have been oh so wrong!
But the Darkness and those in it are using this to effect the outcome. And maybe they are in your house.
Betting In Prep Ball
Both items discussed in #1 and #2 above are tied to this one. And perhaps for anyone on the dark side this is the ultimate payoff. The Darkest addiction known to man and sports. And a way to get rich off of kids.
Getting a kid to commit to one school over another is big for the school and potentially the Agent / paid recruiter. Using influence or technology to effect the outcome of a High School game even bigger. Especially if you have money on the line or invested.
This is why I never take part in prognosticating outcomes and believe me people ask me to all the time. I do not gamble. But years ago I did predict games through the “Pick-Em” method and challenge. As an editor I would take on my readers to see who would get the most right. After going 36 for 40 and 37 for 40 back in the mid 2000’s I decided to stop. And I did so after a reader told me he and his friends had wagers on the games and he had won some money as a result of my picks.
Youth Football betting has been broken wide open as a scandalous sport where hundreds of thousands of dollars are being bet and won every year in Florida alone. This story exposes that.
High School is no different. Rivals lead analyst Dallas Jackson wrote about it in 2011. You can see that story here.
In Texas betting on High School football happens. One story in 2011-12 tracked down online betting for the Texas Longview and DeSoto Game. The Athletic Director at Longview said he knew the fans were going to bet at some level but;
“I didn’t realize that was happening,” King said. “I knew there was friendly wagering going on between rival towns. But when it comes to online betting on high school games … that’ll ruin high school sports.” From This Story
For the most part High School betting seems to be on big games and televised games and it is hard to find anyone to speak about it. The site Sportsbet.com has a page up now that indicates they offer lines on High School games. Here is a screen shot from that site this morning.
Supposed media analysts in Oregon and Washington stand alongside the Coaches and kids and tweet and text but often write no stories about the game. They take no pictures and claim to be unbiased. But they post point spreads and favor one team over another. And they seem to be encouraged by the State body. No one seems to care that such people call these athletes to sell them on recruiting services throughout the year. It’s a real mess. And to me it is all pushing the Darkness down.
Wake up Coaches and AD’s and set rules. Do not expect leadership to come from anywhere but you!
Time To Set Rules
These questions must be asked and issues addressed. No one should be allowed to be in a position to impact the outcome of the game. Nor to influence the kids.
The darkness is falling and you need to stop it before it ruins your team and your school.
In the past three years we have watched as the sidelines at High School games have filled up. Some faces we recognize who have been there for years. TV News, Major papers like the Oregonian and Tacoma New Tribune and the Columbian for example are always there as tried and true media partners. We know they are in the “Light” side of this equation and a true partner for the kids and teams to tell the story.
But a myriad of new writers, bloggers, and groups have invaded the fields too all wanting media badges. Many of these folks have ties to Recruiting services and or run them. They are Wolves in Sheeps clothing.
The State High School Associations need to make rules and we applaud the WIAA in Washington for taking on this sensitive topic.
At the Emerald City Classic this season in Seattle, Washington 4 games were played back to back. The major event at UW Husky Stadium pitted top ranked teams like Bellevue and Skyline & Coeur d’Alene and Bothell against each other. Because this was a WIAA event they set the rules. While I am not sure why they did restrict field access to Photographers only. I was allowed there because that was my function that day and we have a history with them. We wrote several stories on the teams and kids, posted thousands of pictures free and put up video and interviews galore.
The barriers to access were well worth the vetting and the regulations we were subjected to.
The result? It was wonderful truly. No one was down there but camera men and a few beat writers. No one was able to get close enough to violate the space or the sanctity of the game. I am not sure if the coaches noticed but it was refreshing.
High School Organizations often set some rules for their events like this one and the playoffs and then refer all other rules to the High School and District AD’s. It is my strong belief a set of Universal Rules need to be adopted in this regard to protect the kids and the games. The sooner that happens the better.
We want to be regulated and licensed and want everyone to know who is on what team. Recruiting work like it or not is here to stay. Ethical or Unethical it can only be managed Via State rules and standards and because it is a form of agency it needs strong oversight. Betting can be done and manipulated by anyone close enough and unethical enough to do so. Those sort of folks need to be banned from being given access like a sports media writer might be. The two are a dark combination and should never be encouraged or supported.
The Darkness has fallen on many schools in the United States. For many it has meant the emphasis on the I and not the We and if your in one of these programs and wonder why things seem to be worse then before look to these causal factors.
It is my belief that programs will suffer the more of this that creeps in to your programs, teams, and players. And you best not allow it, look the other way, or encourage it.
Support The Light and Shun The Darkness People. It’s time to Wake up!