High school all-star placement has zero to do with college recruitment | Opinion

Jan. 30—Like peanut butter and jelly, high school all-star teams and complaints about them go together.

If everyone across Ohio who believed their favorite student-athlete had a first-team case for any all-star team were accounted for, there wouldn't be a need to call it "all-stars."

You'd just need to call it the "first team" — because everyone would be on the first team.

The motivation, a lot of times, is simple enough to sense.

There is a segment of the high school sports community that believes placement on an all-star team — selected by coaches, conferences, media or otherwise — is the difference between attention from a certain level of colleges and ones above it.

Once and for all, we have got to rid ourselves of this wildly inaccurate misnomer.

Being first-team All-Ohio vs. second team is not going to be the difference between the Mid-American Conference and Big Ten.

Being first-team all-conference vs. honorable mention is not going to stop any student-athlete from getting their foot in the door in college.

And in our case, being first-team News-Herald vs. second team is not costing you or your child scholarship money.

All-stars, to even the most open-minded, are one of the most complicated and political processes.

There's a line to which I like to refer occasionally from one of my all-time favorite TV shows, "The West Wing." In the Season 1 episode "Five Votes Down," the character Leo McGarry, played by the late, great John Spencer, states, "There's two things in the world you never want to let people see how you make 'em: laws and sausages."

All-stars fall into that.

Even after decades of deciding all-star teams across multiple sports and seasons, one aspect that continues to amaze me are the amount of people who think it has any effect other than being a kind nod of local or statewide recognition.

That line about scholarship money? That's a true story. Parents have contacted my colleagues and I after publication of an all-star team and used that line: "You're costing them scholarship money."

It's reached a point, in fact, at which parents attempt — separate of any nomination process — to sway favor for their child.

A kind nudge here or a gentle reminder of resume there is one thing.

But it can also lean the other way.

This past November, finalists were announced for Ohio Mr. Football.

There is a process of who qualifies for the final voting of Mr. Football, as well as who votes for it. Obviously, that process for everyone's sake is best left behind the scenes where it belongs.

However, a new and unwelcome wrinkle was added for this edition that bothered those who knew about it. Now that we're a couple months removed, it would be a good time — as always, with no identities in order to better convey a point — to mention what it was.

A parent of one of the finalists located a contact list of statewide high school sports media members and sent a mass email, advocating for their son separate of the team and of a long-standing process.

Part of that advocacy was to share a social-media post from a relative of the student-athlete.

Any parent can understand the need to want to see what's best for your child.

The lack of self-awareness and egregiously poor approach — let alone attempting to make the case at all — was stunning, though. A relative's social-media post? Really?!

The coach had already made a strong, impassioned case. So had the student-athlete's local district media. The state was aware of it as voters pondered the choice.

If the parent's goal was to affect the balloting, they did. They likely cost their son votes.

Maybe it made a difference in the final outcome. Maybe it didn't.

Perhaps the parent saw the allure of having Ohio Mr. Football on a resume for their child, as if the phone would ring more if that title was bestowed upon them.

But it was clear it had the opposite effect of what was intended, one that had the coach, school and even the student-athlete known, they would have lobbied against that specific advocacy.

One problem with believing all-stars are nothing more than a nice line within a body of work, one that looks good on a college bio or some sort of resume, is it's insulting to college coaches in a way.

It applies the premise that a college coach, seeking to recruit talent, waits until the end of the season for an all-star team and determines who they'll recruit and why because one name was placed over another on all-stars.

College programs have a lot of factors that go into targeting prospective student-athletes. All-star teams are not close to being one of them.

Let's keep it real.

In nearly 25 years of selecting all-star teams at The News-Herald, you wouldn't know how many times a coach had to be talked out of a certain order of nomination priority that would have robbed the most deserving performer of an athlete of the year award.

You wouldn't know how many times coaches didn't participate in the process at all, when nominations were decided by us on their behalf so their team was represented, or when minimal effort was made to nominate.

You wouldn't know how often student-athletes are not nominated or are de-emphasized in the process because of issues away from sports.

You wouldn't know about ladders, limits, cases, criteria or differing philosophies.

Because all you see is the finished product.

But please know this: As nice as all-star honors are, and as much as selection entities enjoy providing that spotlight to the most deserving student-athletes — hand over heart, it's not the difference between NAIA and the Power 5.

No matter how much anyone wants to believe otherwise, even if all-stars and complaining go together like peanut butter and jelly.