The emergence of AAU or summer basketball has forever changed the landscape of the high school game as we once knew it. Some would argue it hasn't been a change for the better, especially in Illinois.
"AAU isn't the answer," said Gene Ford, who was the Sun-Times Player of the Year in 1964 while playing at Crane and taught in the Chicago public schools for 31 years. "Kids suffer and programs suffer when coaches don't have teacher's certificates. They don't have professional preparation in coaching."
In 2004, Ford said he was offered a position as elementary sports coordinator by Calvin Davis, director of sports administration for CPS. In the position, he would be supervising more than 600 schools. At the time, however, he was making more money as an assistant principal.
"How can I go home and tell my wife that I am making less money?" Ford asked himself. "I didn't want people to recognize me for basketball but for my educational merit."
Ford, who later played at Western Michigan, currently teaches physical education at Laura Ward elementary school on the West Side. He has two Masters degrees.
Which brings us to an issue that affects all public and private schools in Illinois but most particularly the Chicago public schools. Who is teaching the kids? Are they qualified? And what are the academic standards by which they are allowed to participate? In other words, who's running the asylum?
"What is missing with the guys who have been coaching for the last 10-15 years is they have no degrees," said a longtime coach who served at two Division I colleges and recruited the Chicago area extensively.
"How do you talk education with a kid if you are a security guard? The problem is they aren't teachers. How important is it for a mentor who is a coach to emphasize the importance of a college degree to kids when they don't have one?"
The coach suggested to look at the web site Thechampion.org and click on to Chicago Public Schools. There, for all to see, is a list of every salaried teacher in the entire system. The problem is coaches who are non-teachers aren't listed on the web site...Simeon's Robert Smith, Whitney Young's Tyrone Slaughter, Brooks' Chris Head, Curie's Mike Oliver, dozens of others.
"After you do the research, you realize they don't have teaching certificates," the coach said. "A lot of guys don't have degrees."
And what are some coaches teaching?
An examination of one coach's class schedule revealed that he is teaching dance, choir, jazz performance, practical nursing therapy and something called Chicago Police and Firefighters.
"And it is getting worse with the one-and-done rule instituted by the NBA that forced players like Derrick Rose to go to college for one year before declaring for the NBA," the coach said. "How important is it for guys to get college degrees anymore?
"The biggest farce now is if you are a great player, like Rose or Kevin Durrant or O.J. Mayo, you only have to pass six hours in the first semester of your freshman year to be eligible to play in your second semester."
And the NCAA insists on referring to these players as "student-athletes." It appears many of them are getting good preparation in high school.