The nation's top two high school football teams were reportedly discussing staging an unofficial high school national championship game to be held later in December before talks broke down because the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) refuses to sanction an official "national title" game.
As first reported by the Louisville Courier-Journal, RivalsHigh 100 top-ranked Louisville (Ky.) Trinity High and Ramsey (N.J.) Don Bosco Prep -- which is currently ranked No. 2 in the RivalsHigh rankings -- had been in discussions to stage a "national championship" game between the two schools. Don Bosco athletic director Brian McAleer told the Courier-Journal that discussions had gone so far that Yankee Stadium had been investigated as a potential site and ESPN was being contacted regarding televising the game.
All of those considerations ended when the state athletic associations for both New Jersey and Kentucky made it clear such a game would be a clear violation of the NFHS regulations that true national title games not be competed.
"We called our state association about it and were told that the [national federation] wouldn't approve it," McAleer told the Courier-Journal. "I think both schools would love to have done it. … If I didn't act on this, I would have been a fool. I think it would have been a good opportunity for the kids. It's a shame we weren't allowed to do it."
There were a variety of reasons why an actual national championship game between the two schools would have made sense. Both programs are currently ranked No. 1 in the nation by at least one national poll, and are No. 2 in the polls in which they are not the top-ranked squad. In fact, they're ranked so close to each other that a compilation of major national media polls has the two teams currently tied on top at 220 points apiece. Both teams finished undefeated state-title campaigns on Friday, with Trinity winning its 14th game in a 62-21 rout of Scott County (Ky.) High to claim Kentucky's Class 6A title while Don Bosco topped perennial rival Bergen (N.J.) Catholic School 42-14 to win the New Jersey Non-Public Group IV crown with it's 11th victory of the season.
Perhaps most significantly, because both teams were already in the clubhouse with undefeated records, there was no remaining competitive reason why they couldn't play each other in a quickly scheduled one-off game.
Still, that hardly means that the game was actually on the verge of happening. The Kentucky High School Athletic Association said that there would have been issues raised by other state federation members about Trinity's ability to practice for additional hours because of the added season-ending game.
Add to that general resistance to the game from Trinity football coach Bob Beatty -- "I would have had to have been told to do it," Beatty told the Courier-Journal -- and it's clear that as much groundwork as was laid for the concept, it still wasn't on the verge of showing up on viewers' TVs.
Nonetheless, the fact that the two schools explored a potential title game in as much detail as they did could be the start of a Pandora's box effect, with future national postseason games with programs competing under names outside their given school monikers, as they currently do for national cross country meets.
"There are a number of other sports that re-title themselves and do something in the offseason," KHSAA commissioner Julian Tackett told the Courier-Journal. "I think it's something we're going to see more and more pressure to allow. There are opportunities now for kids that weren't available 10 years ago. And there's also the push of television."