I was amazed that pro basketball players would turn away multi-million dollar salaries so their greedy agents could keep the right to shop them around to other teams…I was also surprised to see Weber State University spending good money on a classified “job opening” advertisement in the local Ogden newspaper to recruit a head football coach: “Responsibilities include the preparation of student athletes for competition” (Really?), and “game day strategy preparation” (Who knew?).
Do you really think the college will find its head coach from a guy scanning the classifieds in the Standard-Examiner?
But the incident that most made me ponder was the report of a young – a very young – high school quarterback in Salt Lake County. In fact, the boy is not even enrolled in high school; he’s a junior high student who as a quarterback at Jordan High leads the state in passing yards and total offense, is third in the state for rushing and has run or passed for more than three touchdowns per game.
But that’s not what got me thinking about the young man. He’s playing for Jordan High, but he lives in the Alta High boundary. Alta has a great football tradition, but the boy left his “home school” because his father thought the Jordan head coach could better mold his son into a star college quarterback and potential NFL pick.
It’s all legal; the school district offers open enrollment. But should our public schools be athletic factories for genetically-gifted teenagers?
The issue is tangled up with competing concerns and visions: parental choice (a Republican anthem), the creation of athletic dynasties, the desire to excel and scholarship attention from universities, geographical rivalries, and whispered allegations of coaches who recruit students from other neighborhoods and counties.
I sympathize with parents who want the best for their son or daughter. If a school had a great band program, math department or journalism teacher, most of us would not complain about a student jumping ship from one school to attend another. The entire charter school movement stems from giving students a career-enhancing edge.
But switching schools for athletic purposes leaves me uneasy. It enriches the already talent-rich programs and harms athletes who are passed over for meteoric shooting stars. It makes it difficult to turn around losing athletic programs when their best budding students are drive-bys.
Parents often lie about the reason for the moves, and political conservatives defeat efforts for “play where you’re planted” legislation.
As a parent, I understand it. But as a person who values fairness and enjoys athletic competition, I have qualms. How long until sports agents set up offices inside the local high school?