To Ball Or Not To Ball

This weekend's opening round of the CIF Southern Section playoffs wasn't just about high school football players competing and pursuing victory and glory on the gridiron. It also was about money, as the CIF Southern Section has partnered with Spalding, and the result is a mandate that ALL schools participating in CIF Southern Section playoff action must use Spalding footballs in game action, a decision that has some coaches and players scratching their heads.

To our knowledge, the CIF Southern Section is the only section in the state requiring all playoff teams to use a certain football. The issue is 90% of the schools in the Southern Section, according to the coaches we talked with, use a different ball than a Spalding ball, with Wilson being the ball of choice for the majority of teams.

For teams that throw the football and suddenly have to get used to a new ball that feels much different, it can be a severe disadvantage and actually have a bearing on the outcome of the game.

"If anyone can get used to a new ball, it would be our guy," Huntington Beach (Calif.) Edison head coach Dave White said in reference to his All-American quarterback Tommy Grady. "The problem is, the Spalding has such a different feel to it, it's very slippery and tough to grip. Tommy has huge hands so it's not so bad for him but when the ball gets wet, it makes it very tough."

Los Alamitos head coach John Barnes echoed those statements.

"I've been throwing a Wilson ball since I played in high school and that's what we've always used here," Barnes said. "In practice, we were having issues where when our quarterbacks would drop back to pass, the ball would slip right out of their hand. It's been tough to adjust but we all know the rules and knew it was going to be this way so at least we could prepare for it."

Just over 18 months ago, the section and Spalding reached an agreement which required all teams to use the company ball for all playoff games with the exception of tennis, water polo and baseball. According to Rob Wigod, the Southern Section commissioner for football, the partnership with Spalding provides a major source of revenue for the section.

"We have not raised our membership dues since 1984," Wigod told the L.A times. "Business partnerships and championship revenues account for 89% of our revenue."

"I understand it's a business decision," Mission Viejo head coach Bob Johnson said. "I don't really agree with it, but I do understand where they're coming from. I've always been for the kids, though, that's my issue. The game is for the kids and they should be able to throw with whatever ball they're comfortable with."

In order to adjust to the new ball, many schools have practiced with the Spalding ball for part of their practice in order to get more comfortable with it come playoff time.

"Since the pre-season we've been using a Spalding ball a little every day," Long Beach Poly offensive coordinator Merle Cole said. "We're fine with it now and it won't be a problem for us. We still prefer the Wilson ball, it's smaller and not as slippery but it's the same for both teams."

Former North Carolina QB Chris Keldorf, who is the Director of Events for Student Sports, added these thoughts.

"We all should be in the business to inspire and educate the next generation of student athletes, not govern the type of ball the athlete chooses to use," Keldorf said. "Is it our goal to look out for the best interest of the student athlete or renew corporate sponsorships that can have a direct effect on an athlete's performance?"

Editors Note- We would love your thoughts on this subject. If you have an opinion one way or the other, please go to the football message board and give us your thoughts on the issue.


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