Southern Section Commissioner Rob Wigod warns about prep sports becoming a business – Los Angeles Times
In his latest commissioner’s message, Rob Wigod of the Southern Section talks about the concerns and challenges he had starting in 2000 when he first joined the section.
It was about “groups and individuals who wished to make high school athletics a business, instead of preserving the special and unique education-based athletic experience.”
Nothing has changed since he became commissioner.
“An entire industry contnues to grow and expand that is involved in high school sports, but not directly connected to our high schools,” he writes. “Club programs, travel teams, private coaches, sports academies, recruitng services, scouting combines, showcase events and the list goes on and on.
“Another aspect of this industry that is growing and expanding relates to foreign students. Under current CIF Bylaws, foreign students have three opportunities for unlimited eligibility in athletics: through membership in an approved foreign exchange program, which includes being randomly placed in a high school, after a valid residence change by the student and their entire family unit or applying for a hardship waiver due to circumstances in their native country that are beyond the student’s control.
“However, there is another scenario in place resulting in foreign students coming to the United States in a different way and becoming eligible under the SOP rule.
Here’s the business…There are agencies at work in foreign countries who actively solicit students and their families with promises of placement into American high schools in an effort to obtain a diploma and gain exposure to colleges and universities in the United States.
“These agencies are paid for their services by families interested in that opportunity. High schools in our section, in our state and across the country work closely with those organizations and even participate in school affairs in foreign countries, organized by those agencies, where students and families meet with personnel from our schools, gather information and obtain applications for admission.
“After submitting applications, students are accepted, and if it is a private school, tuition is paid and/or financial aid determined. Housing needs to be arranged, and in many cases, the families who house foreign students are paid for doing so.
“It is clear that there is money to be made for the agencies, certain high schools, and their host families. For example, in the sport of boys basketball, we have schools with between five and up to 12 foreign students listed on their rosters and currently playing under SOP in this scenario.
“Does this business fit into our model of education-based athletics? The challenges continue.”
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