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Are high schools closer to national title playoff than NCAA?

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When Auburn and Oregon take to the field in Arizona on Monday night, they will eventually produce a national champion ... and rekindle a national debate. With the thirst for a true collegiate national championship football tournament anything but quenched, the campaign for a more equitable end to the college football season will continue.

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So, why hasn't a similar campaign emerged for high school football, where a team like Batesville (Miss.) South Panola High (from which a player is pictured above) could prove it's the best on the field? For that matter, why hasn't a similar movement been made focusing on high school basketball, baseball, soccer or any other sport, for that matter?

The concept of creating national championship tournaments pitting state champions from across the nation actually was floated last week at the winter meetings of the National Federation of State High School Associations, which makes the high school governing body a solid step more progressive than its collegiate counterpart. Yet, like the NCAA, the NFSHSA decided against recommending or sanctioning such national events, though the vote was a lot closer than you might imagine.

According to the News & Observer, 22 NFSHSA state representatives voted for an amendment which would have forced through a byline change to make the creation and sanctioning of national championship tournaments possible. Only 21 members voted against the same amendment. Yet, while a majority supported the change, the measure needed a full two-thirds majority for enactment, leaving the status quo for the moment being.

For a similar measure to pass in the future, some six NFSHSA representatives would have to change their mind about national championships, a significant though not impossible number. Depending on how the national sports climate changes in the future, those six votes could come in five years, 10 years or, possibly, never.

While the current rejection of national championship tournaments is probably what all would have expected, it raises an interesting prospect: Will high schools actually beat the NCAA to the national championship tournament punch? That may not be as far-fetched as it seems. While there would seem to be astronomical logistical problems undermining the adoption of national tournaments -- scheduling, seeding, accommodating different academic schedules from across the country -- there are also enough backers and certainly enough corporate sponsors to make national tournaments possible, at least if a national infrastructure was created to adequately funnel the created funds to state federations, which could then use them to help defray travel costs for teams, etc.

That hardly means it will happen in any year on the near horizon, but given the intractable NCAA opposition to a national championship playoff, it does seem like high schools might be closer to deciding a national champion on the field than the NCAA is. Given the sheer numbers of different teams and factors involved, that's an incredible statement no matter how you look at it.

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