ruins school sports
Editorial by the Waynesboro Record-Herald, Wed, July 1,
Interscholastic athletics began as a way to combine physical education with good fun.
But a collection of adults have managed to turn it into something creepy. And we're not
even talking about the PIAA here.
A couple of weeks ago, Pennsylvania's second most visible sports charity, the Big 33
Scholarship Foundation, was hit with a record penalty of $18,000 for 24 violations of
state charity laws. The Big 33 is best known for its midsummer football game, in which
top players from Pennsylvania and Ohio put a point-after on their high-school careers
before moving on to college.
Employing a model perfected by Division 1 Universities, Big 33 officials use the unpaid
services of young amateur athletes to raise tens of thousands of dollars in donations
from corporations, ostensibly for college scholarships. And, in fact, the Big 33 money
was given to students. Some. But not nearly enough. Take, for example, a $30,000
donation from shoe giant Adidas. Only $6,000 went to help young people with their
tuition, the Harrisburg Patriot-News reported. The remaining $24,000 went into
Big 33's general fund.
In a state-brokered consent agreement - essentially a plea bargain that allows
corporate and white-collar lawbreakers to save face - the Big 33 acknowledged failing
to disclose that certain members of its board and employees had benefited from what was
supposed to be charity work.
It's hardly news that some charities take in torrents of money, but sprinkle only a
little of it on the people that they claim to help. It's one of the oldest games in the
book. But the Big 33 embarrassment comes closely on the heels of revelations that
another sports charity, the PIAA, has been amassing a multi-million dollar fund balance,
while crying poor-mouth to its member schools, most of which support their championship
teams with taxpayer dollars. The records of both charities reveal the sleazy underside
of kids' games when adults twist them to satisfy their own egos.
It's sad enough that this has become business as usual at the nation's biggest
universities. If we don't draw a line, the same will soon be true of high school
The PIAA is already under scrutiny by a state Senate panel. The best that could come of
that probe would be an oversight law forcing the charity to spend its millions in kids,
As for the Big 33, its annual game is scheduled for July 25, but it will be played
without the support of at least six corporate sponsors, all of which pulled out after
the violations were revealed. Among the departed is Adidias, which used to shoe all the
players in addition to writing checks.
A Big 33 official said the athletes will provide their own footwear this year. That's a
small step. But symbolically, it takes the event in the right direction, away from
adult aggrandizing and back toward a definition of athletics as kids' games played for
top District IX