Sunday, February 13, 2011

Commentary: Turn Down the Hype on Clowney!

by Jeff Fisher

Host, NHSCA Sports Hour

If you missed my commentary piece on the show today, here you go....

Turn Down the Hype!!

You know I’ve been on this soapbox before.
What soapbox? 
The one where I preach that ESPN and others HAVE to stop covering high school sports with the same parameters as pro sports. 
My soapbox preaching began in 2007 with commentary piece on ESPN’s made-for-TV interstate high school football match-ups.  Made-for-TV high school basketball games are really out of control, but for now, I’ll keep my rant to football.
What put me back on the soapbox? 
It was an article in the NY Times by writers Mark Viera and Pete Thamel on Jadeveon Clowney of South Point High School in Rock Hill, South Carolina, who is considered the #1 college prospect in America.  It centers on Clowney’s expected decision on Monday, his birthday and Valentine’s Day, on where he’ll play his college football.
Now, it probably doesn’t seem like that topic should have me seeing red on the day before V-Day.  However, by the time of the second paragraph, I was boiling!
The NY Times article states that “two people with knowledge of Clowney’s classroom performance at South Pointe in Rock Hill, S.C., have raised questions about whether Clowney will be able to meet the NCAA minimum academic standard if he wants to play next season.”
That of course will be interesting news to Alabama, Clemson and South Carolina, who Clowney says are the finalists for his talents.
Whether Clowney academically qualifies or not, isn’t what has me mad.  I DO NOT know Clowney’s academic record, but my guess is, there’s a decent amount of truth to the Times’ article. 
What I want to focus on is this…is Clowney, who has been rumored to have questionable academics, being helped by missing school because ESPN comes calling for a cover shoot for ESPN The Magazine or a live hit in the middle of its 10-hour national signing day special on ESPNU?
I think the answer is NO!
Then there’s the other question of what’s the message being sent to other high school student-athletes when it comes to academics?  Meaning, are studies not that important, if you can get the cover of a national magazine?
ESPN college football analyst Kirk Herbstreit was spot-on when he said in the middle of ESPNU’s signing day coverage that he was concerned about these high school players showboating on the air by putting on hats from the school they chose. 
What seems to be lost during this so-called signing day event, is that the players will have a tremendous opportunity to get an awesome education as the result of the academic scholarship they’re being given. 
Yes, when the dream of NFL goes bye-bye, that degree will mean a lot.
Having worked as a sports journalist for over 35 years, I understand ESPN’s business plan when it comes to being the Worldwide Leader in Sports.  It makes total sense in ESPN’s business plan to create a storyline that goes from the NFL to college to high school.   However, when the lineage starts at the high school level and goes the other way, I believe it creates problems that won’t be able to be reversed.
Student is ALWAYS the first part in the term student-athlete. 

**Please note: This is the opinion of Jeff Fisher and does not reflect the opinion of the National High School Coaches Association.

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