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Palm Beach Post (Florida)
October 8, 2013 Tuesday
SPORTS; Pg. 1C
|Experience, exposure trump expenses when high school football teams make road trips for showcase games;
Experience worth it in showcase games;
Exposure, opportunity for players often trump significant expenses.
By Jeff Greer Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
Brian Dodds said no the first time.
He didn't want his Park Vista High football team traveling all the way to Cincinnati for a season-opening showcase game, especially with a price tag well outside the program's budget.
But when event organizers offered to cover Park Vista's hotel, meal and local transportation costs, Dodds changed his mind. He just had to come up with $18,000 for airfare.
"It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for our kids," Dodds said.
Showcase games, many of them matching teams from different parts of the country, are an increasingly popular trend in high school football, which is considered an untapped cash cow with the growing interest in college recruiting. Talented high school teams travel all over the country to play the games.
ESPN opted not to televise Park Vista's game against Cincinnati-Colerain, but many of the contests are broadcasts nationally -- such as Miami-Washington High's trip to Las Vegas to play Nevada power Bishop Gorman High last Friday. It was Washington's second nationally televised road game of the season.
There's no doubting the exposure the games generate. Are they worth the cost?
Local administrators and coaches who've taken teams to showcase games say it's a resounding yes. In addition to Park Vista, local schools American Heritage, Dwyer, Glades Central, Glades Day and Pahokee have also played in such contests.
"It's good to expose these student-athletes to travel and new experiences or places they may never see," Pahokee coach Blaze Thompson said.
The costs for some trips, however, can't be ignored.
Dwyer had a $1,000 budget shortfall after its 2010 trip to Columbus, Ohio, for a game on ESPN against Cleveland's Glenville High.
The school received $30,000 from the organizing group of Kirk Herbstreit's National Kickoff Classic series. Dwyer spent $31,000 to get its team to Ohio.
Dodds said each Park Vista varsity player had to find $300 to repay the football program for their airfare. Many of them found local sponsors to offset their costs.
Bus One, a charter bus company in Palm Beach County, provided Park Vista's team with free transportation to and from Palm Beach International Airport.
Parents also chipped in, with food and other supplies.
"What made me upset was I couldn't concentrate on football," Dodds said. "I was just overwhelmed with all the other stuff."
Nike sponsored Pahokee's games at Byrnes High in Duncan, S.C., in 2007 and 2008. Thompson's program didn't receive or pay a cent, he said.
Glades Central stayed home for a 2011 showcase game against Dwyer, bringing in some $24,000 in gate receipts. The school received another $1,000 from ESPN's event organizer, Paragon Marketing.
It was the first nationally televised game featuring two Palm Beach County teams.
This fall, ESPN plans to broadcast 26 high school football games.
Several teams from Florida have either already played or will play in those games. None this year are from Palm Beach County or the Treasure Coast.
In its release detailing its 2013 schedule, ESPN emphasized the number of top-flight college prospects playing in the featured games.
The number of showcase games will only increase in coming years.
The Dwyer-Glades Central game drew more than 400,000 viewers to ESPN, which beats the typical weeknight viewership of ESPN's broadcasts of regular-season Major League Baseball games.
American Heritage, with its roster full of elite junior prospects, will likely receive an invitation to play a showcase game in 2014.
October 8, 2013