Tonight ESPN showed a high school basketball game. Basketball. High school. In primetime.
Things have changed in the world of high school sports. The attention, money, prestige, and did I mention money have grown prodigiously over the last decade.
With the attention came the corrupting influence of money. Cheating is endemic in Alabama high school sports. I would say it is new, but it isnâ€™t. Football, basketball and baseball are all sports with serious cheating problems.
Today the AHSAA declared Wenonah in violation of an eligibility rule, and forced the team to forfeit all games; the AHSAA replaced Wenonah in the Northwest Regional Finals, fined the school, and placed the school on probation.
In football, we all know the Hoover saga. But donâ€™t think the cheating is confined to Hoover. Teams throughout the state are engaged in a race for every advantage possible.
What creates the biggest advantage?
Budgets are soaring, and the schools are trying to wring every dollar from the athletic department. TV contracts, radio broadcasts, coaches hiring select photographers to sell photographsâ€”anything you can think of, the schools and booster clubs are going after the dollars.
As the chase for mammon intensified, high school athletic programs have long since given up their virginityâ€”prostituting themselves for the fame and exposure and dollars that victory generates.