Upton attends All-American BowlPublished 12:38pm Thursday, February 6, 2014
Niles Athletic Director Jeff Upton used the Christmas break to attend the High School All-American Bowl in Texas Jan. 2-5.
The opportunity arose back in September and Upton originally was going to pass on the offer.
But when Army Staff Sergeant Steve Smith and Stephen Blakely persisted, Upton eventually decided to take the opportunity to see what the game was all about.
Current Michigan High School Athletic Association rules do not allow for athletes to compete in national all-star games without giving up their remaining eligibility. It is a topic that has been greatly discussed and debated throughout the years.
Upton does not agree with the rule.
“I was upset that the MHSAA does not allow our Michigan athletes the opportunity to represent our state in such an exciting opportunity,” he said. “This doesn’t seem fair to me, and it was my hope to help view that event and possibly work to help change the rules.”
The current MHSAA rule doesn’t allow athletes to accept any gift over $25. Most national all-star games provide gifts and travel vouchers, which would violate the rule.
The All-American Bowl flies players to Texas and provides them with gear from Adidas and the Army.
While Upton understands the need to try and keep athletes from accepting gifts, he feels there must be a way to allow them to compete against some of the best athletes in the United States in front of a national television audience.
“It is a unique privilege select athletes are given to (recognize) success and gain valuable exposure,” Upton said. “There must be a way in the future that athletes can represent our state on the national level without ruining their final year of high school wrestling, basketball, track and/or baseball.”
Upton attended the game on behalf of the 3rd Recruiting Brigade (the Marauders), which represents eight states.
Upton said he heard generals speak and learned a great deal about the military.
“The hidden beauty of this trip was the Army allowed me to connect with four individuals from different places in the country and come together to form a bond that would enhance our future professional careers,” he said. “This type of work and link to the military is a blessing that can benefit all of our communities, and, hopefully, I can also influence the MHSAA to make various policy changes that will benefit our outstanding, talented Michigan athletes from across the state.”