The Business of High School Sports – January 20, 2017

In August, 2000, I interviewed for the position of Assistant Commissioner for the CIF Southern Sec on. In that interview, I was asked a question about what challenges I thought were facing the CIF Southern Sec on in the future. At that me, I thought the biggest challenge we faced were the groups and individuals who wished to make high school athletics a business, instead of preserving the special and unique education-based athletic experience that we value so much. Nothing that has happened since has changed my perspective on this issue.

An en re industry continues to grow and expand that is involved in high school sports, but not directly connected to our high schools. Club programs, travel teams, private coaches, sports academies, recruiting services, scouting combines, showcase events and the list goes on and on.

Another aspect of this industry that is growing and expanding relates to foreign students. Under current CIF Bylaws, foreign students have three opportunities for unlimited eligibility in athletics: through membership in an approved foreign exchange program, which includes being randomly placed in a high school, a er a Valid Residence Change by the student and their en re family unit or applying for a Hardship Waiver due to circumstances in their native country that are beyond the student’s control. However, there is another scenario in place resulting in foreign students coming to the United States in a different way and becoming eligible under the SOP rule

Here’s the business…There are agencies at work in foreign countries who actively solicit students and their families with promises of placement into American high schools in an effort to obtain a diploma and gain exposure to colleges and universities in the United States. These agencies are paid for their services by families interested in that opportunity. High schools in our sec on, in our state, and across the country work closely with those organizations and even participate in school fairs in foreign countries, organized by those agencies, where students and families meet with personnel from our schools, gather information and obtain applications for admission.

A er submitting applications, students are accepted, and if it is a private school, tuition is paid and/or financial aid determined. Housing needs to be arranged, and in many cases, the families who house foreign students are paid for doing so.

It is clear that there is money to be made for the agencies, certain high schools, and their host families. For example, in the sport of Boys Basketball, we have schools with between five and up to twelve foreign students listed on their rosters and currently playing under SOP in this scenario.

Does this business fit into our model of education-based athletics? The challenges continue.

Thank you very much for your help and support, it is truly appreciated.

Published under:
Commissioner’s Messages