Isn't high school sports supposed to be all about a level playing field?
Isn't that what Title IX was all about? Isn't that what the class system is all about? The multiplier? Giving each school an opportunity to be competitive with every other school?
This isn't collegiate or professional sports. This isn't supposed to be about a salary cap or a luxury tax or Boone T. Pickens. This isn't about who can produce the best team that money can buy.
High school sports in Illinois has a sense of sanity when the Illinois High School Association enforced a rule that prohibited teams from traveling more than 300 miles to compete in contests.
Cincinnati was the mileage marker, 300 miles from Chicago, no farther. High schools in Texas, Florida, California, Ohio, Pennsylvania and other states were eligible to schedule games from coast to coast. Not Illinois.
Now the rules have changed. Illinois schools are eligible to schedule games from her to Hawaii. As Sun-Times prep editor Steve Tucker reported recently, Whitney Young' s boys basketball team is playing in more states this season than Loyola University.
I don't know who is funding Whitney Young's trips to here, there and everywhere. I hope they shot some hoops with President-elect Barack Obama while they were touring Hawaii. I assume the Chicago Board of Education didn't pay their bills and nobody claimed they raised funds by selling chocolate bars.
It is admirable that Whitney Young has a benefactor. It is troubling to me that few other schools do. So the playing field isn't level. Some kids have an advantage of getting exposure to college coaches and playing against the best competition in the country. Other kids stay home.
I think the system stinks. Van Coleman thinks so, too. He is one of the most respected recruiting analysts in the country and he has observed the abuses created by unlimited travel opportunities. It all comes down to what states will allow and what they believe is best for their athletes.
Iowa, for example, doesn't allow travel beyond adjacent states. It didn't allow a member school to participate in a Thanksgiving tournament in Peoria because it occurred a day before Iowa began basketball competition.
Some states don't permit their schools to compete in Christmas tournaments. They still believe it is a time for kids to be with their families. Illinois, however, has been conducting holiday basketball tournaments since the 1920s and has more events for boys and girls than any other state.
"In many states, schools must raise their own money to travel," Coleman said. "The abuse comes from outside sources. It falls back on adults to make rules that are adult rules and fit the situation.
"I like it if schools compete in only one or two tournaments a year, so they aren't affected academically. As it is, there are way too many tournaments. It raises questions about whether it is good for the kids to get so much exposure and travel so much.
"Schools to have determine a balance between exposure to different cultures compared to what is best for the kids academically. The current system must be scaled down to what makes sense."