A Rule of Disservice

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – The Shrine Bowl and other high school football all-star games have provided a platform for a number of lesser-known players to showcase their skills to Division I coaches through the years, but NCAA bylaw has eliminated that opportunity.

The rule, which was established last March, states that, "In football, all live athletics evaluations shall be limited to regularly scheduled high school, preparatory school and two-year college contests and practices; and regular scholastic activities involving prospective student-athletes enrolled only at the institution at which the regular scholastic activities occur."

With such a broad definition, the bylaw – which only affects Division I members – also signifies that live evaluations may not occur at non-scholastic events, including camps, combines and all-star games.

"We are not considered, just like any other all-star game, as a regularly scheduled game, even though we've been playing this game for 72 years," said French Harvey, who serves as a volunteer administrator for the Shrine Bowl, which will be held in Spartanburg, S.C., on Saturday.

Count North Carolina head coach Butch Davis as one individual against the rule.

"I think it's a horrible disservice to the kids," said Davis, who will serve as a guest speaker at Friday's Shrine Bowl luncheon. "There's probably at any given all-star game around the country, there might be 8-10 kids that if they were given the opportunity for coaches to go, they might get a scholarship out it."

Davis indicated that certain student-athletes participating in the Shrine Bowl come from small high school programs at the 1-A or 2-A level, and it's their one chance to show that they can play against the large school classifications, such as 4-A or 4-AA in North Carolina.

Former North Carolina running back Ronnie McGill was a little-known athlete out of Clover, S.C., before blowing up at the 2002 North-South All-Star Game in Myrtle Beach, earning MVP honors after rushing for 119 yards and three touchdowns. He enrolled at UNC several weeks later for the spring semester.

N.C. State freshman linebacker Sterling Lucas entered last season's Shrine Bowl with no committable offers, and emerged with six FBS schools actively pursuing his signature.

The bylaw was put into place limit the increasing prevalent "advisor" syndrome that has blanketed the college basketball recruiting scene.

"What's happened in men's basketball is that there was becoming more and more undue influences of the third party," said ACC assistant commissioner Shane Lyons, a member of the NCAA's Legislative Council. "The [Southeastern Conference], who I believe was the original sponsor, was saying that live evaluations should only occur at scholastic-based events and not have the third party involved, such as some of these combines and different things that were specifically happening in the May period. That's what they were trying to get coaches away from."

The SEC, however, has apparently recognized the error of its ways – the conference is now pushing Proposal 20-A to be adopted when the NCAA holds its annual convention Jan. 13-15. That piece of legislation would allow for the inclusion of all-star practices and competitions that are organized by a state high school or junior college association for scouting purposes.

Harvey said that the Shrine Bowl – which helps raise money for 22 hospitals that treat a variety of health issues for children – has not felt any ill-effects of the rule change.

"The value of those coaches coming doesn't necessarily affect the Shrine Bowl as an entity, but it affects the kids that are in the Shrine Bowl," Harvey said. "Our attendance at practices is down from previous years. We've got high school coaches out there at practice, and Division II and Division III coaches and scouts out there at practice, but we're missing all of the other coaches."

One chance is sometimes all a kid needs to impress a college football coach, but with this current bylaw in place, the opportunity for sleeper prospects to emerge in the final weeks before National Signing Day has dwindled dramatically.

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