• Brian L. Barefield


It was just a couple of months ago when the nation was rocked by the college admissions bribery scandal that involved high profile celebrities such as Lori Laughlin (Full House) and Felicity Huffman (Desperate Housewives). The criminal activity was nicknamed Operation Varsity Blues.

William Singer who ran two companies that helped high school students gain admission into prestigious universities such as Harvard, Stanford, Yale, Texas, USC, UCLA, etc. through fraudulent means. Singer used tactics such as bribing college officials and coaches to make the students come across as elite sports stars and cheating on college entrance exams. He raked in more than 25 million dollars over seven years before he was caught.

In the investigation, the FBI found altered videos and pictures of athletes who had their facial images replaced with the students Singer was trying to help gain entrance into the university. It leads one to wonder how such a horrendous thing could take place at the high school level without anyone taking notice, but what if I told you that it is more common than you think and is masked through another mean that hides in plain sight. The star-rating system used to rank high school football athletes looking for an athletic scholarship to major Division 1 programs.

“I was shocked by what I was hearing Sarge,” said the father of a high school football player whose son plays for one of the top programs in the state of Texas. “Here we are watching our son play 7-on-7 and we get approached by a man who says for the right amount of money he could take our son from a borderline three-star recruit to a borderline five-star recruit.”

Before you ask the question. Yes, they did pay, and their son is being highly recruited going into his senior year of high school. One may say that the amount paid is far less than paying for college out of pocket and to some extent that is true, but what happens when it is time to perform with real four- and five-star athletes and the young man’s skill set doesn’t match? What criticism and insults will the young man have to endure because he is always a step slower than the rest of the players who plays his position? What if your child ends up in a toxic program like the kind the University of Maryland ran that eventually contributed to the death of Jordan McNair?

Was paying for that ranking better than teaching your child that hard work and dedication really does work? While you take time to ponder over your parenting skills and believe me I am not here to tell anyone how to parent. My issue is more with the media and publications who operate with no journalistic integrity. To solicit money from parents through trainers, strength and conditioning coaches, and speed specialists is unethical and immoral.

There is a plethora of media outlets that contribute to the ranking system that entails a player’s future potential. The amount of coverage given to a kid by way of articles and social media will catch the attention of college football recruiters around the nation to get them to pay closer attention to him. Along with a video of the young man’s best highlights which is sometimes mediocre at best, those constant tweets and “Players to Watch” articles every other week praising him for an outstanding game pays off. Well, at least pays a nice amount of money to the journalist that is writing them. I got a chance to talk to another father via a phone interview that knows this process more than he would have liked too.

“My son has always possessed some talent, but his work ethic was never that good. At least not like ours was back in the day. I could never get him to understand that hard work mixed in with his natural ability could have him potentially playing on Sunday’s. So, his mom and I decided to motivate him by sending him to a guy who specializes in helping wide receivers and running backs get better. We are not the richest people in the world, but we wanted to do whatever we could to help our child.

After a month passes I go to pick him up and the guy who is training him comes to me and says, ‘It is going to take you a lot of time and money to get your son to where he needs to be by this upcoming season. I have a way that you can avoid coming out here three days a week and paying me what it would cost to work with him for at least six months. There is a guy who helps kids get ranked through his publication that will have him highly recruited by next year. It’s a bit expensive but think about how much time it will save you here and the amount of money you can keep by not paying for college.’ Sarge, what other choice do you have when you love your kid? My wife and I decided to pay the money without telling our son and it was the worst decision ever because he ended up quitting his college team after one year.”

Stories like that is being told all over the country while the media members are steady stuffing their pockets. Is it illegal? The answer is no. There isn’t a person in this world that could ever debate someone over their opinions which is what everyone involved in the unethical practice would say if ever brought in to question.

One of the reason William Singer was able to make so much money in a short period of time is because he used the same logic most journalist and social media managers use. The majority of parents wants to see their kids happy and able to do whatever it is that makes them as such. Even if it means sometimes being taken advantage of. In the case of “Star Ratings” for high school football athletes, it is sometimes easier to pay than to see the disappointment on the child’s face.

Rivals Database for 2019 estimated that out of 300,000 seniors that play high school football only 30 of them will be five-stars, 380 will be four-stars, 1,328-three stars, and 1,859 two-stars. That leaves 296,403 players vying to gain some sort of notoriety and college coach’s attention by any means necessary. If you live in football hotbeds such as Texas, California, and Florida that number increases.

There was a time when word of mouth and a good VHS tape would do the trick. Those days are long gone and with social media outlets being so prevalent and dominate in our lives right now I see no easy solution to this issue. College recruiters rely heavily on these publications to get it right before they will even take a look at the kid’s game film. All the footage online is the young man’s highlights that point out is strengths but leaves out the weaknesses. Well, unless the entire footage is fake and being pushed off as being real as was the case in Tennessee.

In February of this year. Grace Christian head football coach got a call from a Georgia Tech coach inquiring about his 6-foot-6, 315-pound stud player that was a four-star recruit on the majority of recruiting services used by college coaches. Coach Bradley had to remove the phone from his ear to make sure no one was playing a joke on him and then ask the voice on the other end of the phone to repeat himself. The Georgia Tech coach called the name again and that’s when coach Bradley knew something wasn’t right.

The young man that was being sought after was Blake Carringer. He had been ranked in the top 50 players in the state of Tennessee (35) and his Twitter account was flooded with offer letters from top programs such as Alabama and Georgia. There is only one problem. Blake is 5-foot-7 and weighs 220 pounds and nothing about him portrays a four-star football player.

The entire account was fake and Carringer exposed the national recruiting services for their inaccuracies and ability to research the story and report the facts.

See how easy that was boys and girls? A high school student played that entire system. Now imagine how much easier it is for a journalist to do it.

I mentioned earlier that there is not a quick solution to this epidemic of colleges and kids falling in love with the “Stars.” If I had any say so in it, I would get rid of that system all together and start from scratch. Hold these high school coaches more accountable to help these young men get noticed. You do remember that there was a time when a head coaches would send out letters and videos on behalf of their players right? It’s even easier now with email and HUDL videos. If they go back to that style they can save some of these loving parents a couple of dollars.

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