Column: The MHSAA’s answer to the ‘Arms Race’

Published 4:46 am Wednesday, October 13, 2004

By Staff
As Wednesday's edition of USA Today described, there is an arms race in high school sports – a contest to outspend our opponents; but this is the very rare exception, not the rule.
Most schools spend wisely; and – forced by the broken promises of politicians, a struggling economy, escalating health insurance costs and untouchable pension expenses – some schools spend too little on extracurricular programs that provide great value to boys and girls with a wide variety of interests and abilities.
Michigan's highly-successful football program at Farmington Hills Harrison does not deserve to be lumped in with those schools on the extreme edge. As noted in the article, its football budget is very modest; the facilities improvements referenced in the article are for several schools district-wide, and reflect work being done to benefit all students – not just football players. It is becoming more and more common for taxpayers to make the capital investment in artificial playing surfaces for practice and competition because it maximizes the quality and quantity of the participation opportunity for a variety of sports teams, as well as marching bands and other school and community groups.
But for that very small minority of schools with cockeyed perspective and crazy priorities, here's the antidote:
USA Today should cease its contribution to the problem and discontinue all national high school rankings of teams and individual players. At best, these rankings are faulty; and at worst they feed the frenzy the paper describes in Wednesday's edition.
All schools, through their local leagues and statewide associations, should agree to ban national events, long-distance travel and live television of regular-season events. All of these policies exist in Michigan , and they work!
It was less than two months ago that USA Today wrote about the growth of participation fees for extracurricular activities and the threat they impose on our programs. That is a more typical and critical problem that high school programs face – a lack of funding.