In Problems in Youth Sports

Did you know that as a real part of March Madness, the Findlay Prep Pilots basketball team just won the national high school basketball championships? What’s that you say, you didn’t even know that there was a national high school basketball championship? Well, to be fair to you, there wasn’t one until just this year. Now, courtesy of ESPN, Nike, Gatorade and the Paragon Marketing Group, we’re all hoping that this “exciting” event can become a regular part of the high school sports landscape.

This inaugural “national championships” was an invitational tournament only comprised of 8 teams. It is not sanctioned by the National Federation of State High School Associations because that organization has a built in constitutional provision preventing members from competing in national championships. I think this is based on some lame concern that by adding this extra, post season tournament, it would intrude on class time and academics and not reflect their educational mission.

Thank God that Findlay Prep and the other competing “schools” don’t buy into this archaic philosophy that education is important and should come first! So what if there’s the minor glitch that Findlay Prep isn’t actually a real high school. Who cares if the 8 players on the team all live together in an expensive and well equipped suburban Las Vegas home, travel to tournaments all over the country and regularly eat at Las Vegas strip restaurants. The important thing for us all to keep in mind is that they occasionally take a few classes at The Henderson International School, a nearby private academic institution. How this qualifies Findlay as a real high school is beyond me and not important. What is important about high school is fielding a really talented ball team.

Findlay Prep is the brain child of one Cliff Findlay, an auto mogul and former forward for the UNLV Ruinnin’ Rebels. Cliff poneyed up a meager $425,000 to purchase the 5 bedroom house that is home to these 8 players, an assistant coach and his wife. He also pays for the team’s food and travel (chump change when you consider that the Pilots only log 30,000 air miles a year across eight states) not to mention the $16,000 per “student” for their tuition to Henderson International.

It is also quite interesting that a number of the players from Findlay end up signing with UNLV. Conflict of interest of a wealthy basketball alumna providing gifts, etc. to potential recruits? Hardly! The NCAA doesn’t “see” anything wrong with this arrangement and, according to Findlay, “we’ve coordinated everything that we’re doing with the NCAA and we’ve set this thing up exactly the way that they told us!”

Well, that’s certainly comforting for me to hear! This is too: Findlay Prep, because they are not bound by any regulations of the National Federation of State High School Association has no academic eligibility requirements! They also have no restrictions on travel, student transfers or practice time the way more conventional high school and colleges do. In short, Findlay Prep answer to no one! No wonder the NCAA couldn’t find anything wrong here.

One player began the school year with one team, St. Benedict Prep in Newark, but after they lost to Oak Hill in the National semis, he decided to transfer. His decision might have also had something to do with him being dismissed from his former team by his coach after an argument with the man during a game in early February. Four days later, he was a member in good standing of the Findlay Prep team. What!? You have a problem with this?

The Findlay Prep website makes me want to play there. They tell prospective players that they will live in a “near million dollar home” with two big screen TVs, all new furniture, custom extra long beds, wireless internet, full cable TV and two refrigerators kept full.

If that doesn’t get you, then how about the free laptop for every player and the mounds of complementary gear from Nike. Sounds like the high school I went to way back when.

You know what I find really sad about this whole thing? These so-called “educators,” including the hypocritical NCAA, actually think that this is legitimate high school basketball and that we’re talking about student-athletes here. Do they think we’re all stupid or simply just blind as bats?

My feeling is that if looks like a duck, waddles like a duck, quacks like a duck and craps like a duck, it’s a duck. This is not high school sports. This is very high level, semi-professional basketball. This is a feeder system for the semi-pro stuff we see at some of these higher level D-1 basketball programs, which ultimately feed the NBA and pro ball leagues in Europe. Please don’t insult my intelligence by dressing this up as high school basketball.


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