State of Play: Mark Tennis
It may be a surprise to some, but the most people to ever witness a California high school sporting event was the 85,000 who jammed the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in the summer of 1957 for the North-South Shrine Game.
This was a year in which the South was led by SoCal standouts Randy Meadows (Downey) and Mickey Flynn (Anaheim), who drew 41,000 when their teams played for the CIF Southern Section Major Division title the previous December. In that North-South Shrine Game, however, the North won 32-0 behind Herm Urenda from Liberty-Brentwood, who rushed for two TDs and 101 yards.
Keep in mind that the record attendance occurred one year before the Brooklyn Dodgers moved to Los Angeles, pro football wasn’t nearly as popular as college football, and color TV was still in its infancy.
Today, high school football all-star games still exist at the local level. They are important to some players and coaches, but not to as many as even 10 years ago. Today it’s virtually impossible for any summer games to attract fans with Division I-bound college players. Those players head for their new homes as quickly as possible now, including an increasing number as mid-term senior graduates.
A great example of the local all-star game continuing to survive is the Central California Lions All-Star Classic. It’s important to us at Cal-Hi Sports over others just because it’s the game for the Stockton community we live in. But we suspect the challenges that the Lions All-Star Classic is facing in our community are the same everywhere.
The Lions All-Star Classic was moved this year to Tracy’s Wayne Schneider Stadium after two years at Modesto Junior College. Before that, it was held for many years at the University of Pacific’s Stagg Memorial Stadium, which began being demolished in June.
Having the game at Wayne Schneider Stadium is appropriate because Schneider, who went 224-59-5 at Tracy in 26 seasons, is basically the reason the Lions All-Star Classic is still going on.
It can only be assumed that other all-star games that are surviving are doing so because someone like Coach Schneider is putting in the necessary work “” everything from selling ads, coordinating coaches and rosters and working with insurance brokers “” that such an event demands. He helped organize the first game in the series in 1974 and has continued long after his last game coaching Tracy in 1994.
So what are these games to do to not only survive but perhaps do better?
One step could be to move them out of the summer and play them instead in January right after the previous season ends. This would prevent some kids from playing who also are in basketball but there’s not as many of them as in the past. More kids who have yet to commit to Division-I colleges, however, would then not only be more likely to play in an all-star game but the colleges themselves would be motivated to come to practices and the game itself.
A January game also would be more likely to attract a video streaming partner that could pay a small fee to broadcast the game. If high school baseball section championship games with a few hundred people in attendance are getting streamed, a local high school football all-star game involving players who have yet to commit to any college is certainly a viable candidate for the same.
A more drastic approach is one suggested every year at the Lions All-Star Classic by Rich Estrada, the former prep editor of the Modesto Bee and now publisher of the Black Hat Football blog. Rich says why not mandate that the defense in an all-star game consist of just 10 players trying to stop 11 on offense. All-star games do tend to be low-scoring and such a stunt probably would prevent that. It also sure could help a game generate some pre-game publicity.
Mark Tennis is the co-founder of Cal-Hi Sports, and publisher of CalHiSports.com. Cal-Hi Sports is the authority in state rankings for football, basketball, baseball and softball, as well as the recognized state record keeper for all high school sports. Contact him at HYPERLINK “mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org” email@example.com and follow him on Twitter, @CalHiSports.
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