Fox High School Tourney Plan Draws Fire


Fox Sports Net's ambitious plan to develop a national
high school football championship tournament has met some resistance from several state
athletic associations.

The network plans to produce and distribute the first-ever
national high school football championship across all of its 22 regional sports cable
networks in December of 2000. Fox Sports, along with Student Sports Inc. – which
publishes a national high school sports magazine -- will develop a top-50 weekly national
rating to determine the best high school teams in the country.

At the end of the year, the network would match the top two
teams in a one-game national championship playoff.

Fox Sports executive vice president Arthur Smith said the
title game is a logical extension of its more than 500 hours of exclusive high school
programming in 14 different sports. "We have a lot vested in high school sports and
the [high school football championship] is something that we've looked at as an event
that we would like to do," Smith said. "We think this will provide a shot in the
arm for high school sports."

Fox already has several high schools on board for the
championship, including powerhouses Evangel Christian in Shreveport, La, and Summerville,

But several state athletic associations with strong high
school football programs have already said no to participation in such a project.
Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association assistant executive director Melissa
Nash said a championship game would violate at least three association by-laws pertaining
to an athlete's amateur status. "We are not participating in the [high school
championships]," Nash said.

Representatives from the Ohio High School Athletic
Association said the championship would violate regulations which mandate that teams play
a maximum of 15 games a season. "Our regulations do not allow for [Fox's
proposal]," said association director of information Bob Golding.

But Smith said much of the criticism and concern comes
because high school administrators and state associations lack knowledge about the
proposal. "Because there are so many people involved, we haven't been able to
get to everyone to tell them our story," Smith said.

As part of the high school football championship project,
Fox will put a scholarship system in place, which would reward schools and associations.
Also, Fox hopes to take advantage of potential sponsorship opportunities surrounding the
game to help build awareness of high school athletics.

"We're trying to find a way to make sure we
don't break any rules," Smith said.

Along with the game, Fox is proposing the development of a
national high school magazine show, and plans to air the weekly to 50 poll on Fox Sports