Extra Points: Brian Spano 9/16
By Brian Spano PrepsKC Senior Writer
Has high school football gotten out of hand?
I know what you might be thinking.
Whoa, how could someone so passionate about the game, who has covered it since the late ‘80s and wouldn’t want to be anywhere else on a Friday night, have the gall to pose such a question?
All I have to do is look south to Texas, where a $60 million, 18,000-seat stadium was constructed for the Allen Eagles of Allen, Texas, a suburb of Dallas. Let me write that again, a $60 million, 18,000-seat stadium was constructed for the Allen Eagles.
There are moderate-sized colleges that don’t have athletic budgets that touch anywhere near $60 million.
The project was funded through a $119 million bond package approved by voters in 2009 because, get this, the old 14,000-seat stadium wasn’t big enough. Come on.
A few weeks ago, ESPN came to town. It wasn’t the first time the World Wide Leader was in Kansas City to broadcast a high school football contest, but anymore, it’s becoming the norm to put a weekly high school football game on national television.
I understand that it’s great publicity for the community, the schools and the programs, but is there an expectation or a precedent being set that might be a bit out of whack?
We’ve come to expect college football every Saturday and the pros on Sunday televised throughout the fall and winter, but to me something just doesn’t feel right when high school football begins to enter the landscape.
When you throw in the seedy business of recruiting, a sport all its own, then the game has a whole different meaning.
We’re seeing bigger stadiums, elaborate press boxes, suites or luxury boxes for boosters and crazy-colored football fields.
A team in Oregon, West Salem High School, just unveiled a black field dubbed the “Black Hole.”
Schools have been converting to Field Turf from grass over the last several years as a safety and cost-cutting issue with regard to maintenance. However, when schools decide to go from the traditional green (see Boise State) to something completely out of the ordinary, it’s obviously for a psychological advantage.
The cost for West Salem’s new field? A paltry $300,000 when you consider what the Allen Eagles stadium cost.
This isn’t a column to dump on high school football, because to me, it’s the game at its purest form at that level, but I do have to question at what point does this “arms race” end?
I enjoy a good old-fashioned Friday night high school football game, but unfortunately, the simpler times have passed. I just want to pose the questions to ponder. The game has grown and changed so much over the last decade, and it will more than likely continue to do so over the next 10 years.
I can only hope it doesn’t get so big or change so much that I won’t be able to recognize what it used to be.
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