AAU Football? Not Quite! Just Quality Reps!

In a move to make sure that a movement in football doesn't get out of hand, like AAU basketball, the Ohio High School Athletic Association put the "squash on" by making sure that Ohio football players knew they could not participate in a Midwest 7 on 7 showcase held at the Woody Hayes Football Center March 28th and 29th.

There it was - big and bold on the front of their website:

"Football players and their parents are reminded that any kind of out-of season play may cause ineligibility for the 2009 school season. Football players are prohibited from participation in any contact football (camps, clinics, leagues, etc.) outside of the school season. Non-contact football, such as 7 on 7 or passing leagues, are permitted ONLY during the months of June and July. Football athletes may participate in combines."

Meanwhile, over the weekend, teams representing Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, and Pennsylvania played in a round robin on Saturday and a single elimination tournament on Sunday. The teams were loaded with high school football players who held multiple scholarship offers to play in the fall of 2010 from across the country. Mind you, the tournament was in Columbus, OH, and there were no high school football players tossing footballs, catching footballs, knocking them down or making interceptions from Ohio.

So what is the fear here? The fear is spelled out in a recent Sports Illustrated web article that reported the success of several 7 on 7 tournaments held by New Level Athletics, a Scout.com interest run by Brian Flenory, Regional Manager of the Midland Region for Scout. In the only unfortunate comparison made by a 7 on 7 coach from Florida (when asked what 7 on 7's were like) he called it "AAU football." What is unfortunate is that everything that has been printed about what is shady about the far flung AAU basketball empire, is now being transferred to something that really isn't comparable to football, and I will tell you why.

The 7 on 7 play is nothing but REPS for football players. Score is kept. There are no helmets, no shoulder pads, and the biggest factor - NO LINEMEN! To quote the greatest football coach in history, Vince Lombardi, "linemen win football games." This is just reps, and there isn't a football coach alive that doesn't understand the concept and value of "reps." This isn't football. Pure and simple, it is a passing league that pits receivers against secondary.

Is there value in these reps? Absolutely. This past weekend in Columbus, Ohio the reps were against quality players with speed, finesse, and hands. There is no blocking, no tackling and the some guy is counting to 4, and if the quarterback hasn't thrown the ball by 4 seconds, it is considered a "sack." A sack without contact? So what is so valuable about 7 on 7? It enhances the passing game and enhances defending the passing game.

I will bet that you can take the most uninformed fan, sit them down, show them a tape of an AAU basketball game, and then a tape of a 7 on 7 contest. Then ask, what's missing from this football game? I bet you will get a pretty clear answer - from pads, helmets, uniforms, and – whoa, where are the big boys? What's missing in this basketball game? Nothing. One of the things that bothers me is the inconsistency of high school athletic associations who allow AAU basketball practice (Ohio) to begin immediately and will not allow their football players to participate in a 7 on 7 contest. Is there something wrong with this picture? This is the state of Ohio, where LeBron James took his whole AAU team and enrolled in a parochial school and won a state championship (CBS 60 Minutes 3.29.09).

(end of part one)


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