The growing market for All-Star football games at the city, state, regional and national levels is bringing to light a long-standing rule in the Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association constitution that has become a point of contention for parents across the state.
The rule prevents football players in the 7th-11th grades who played for an OSSAA-member school team from participating in an All-Star game or with a non-school team for the duration of the school year.
Since most of these national competitions and “All-America” games are played in December and January, rather than during the summer, these athletes' OSSAA eligibility is threatened by choosing to play in such a game.
“It's a rule that's been in place as long as I've been with the association, and that's been over 16 years,” OSSAA associate director David Jackson said. “It simply says that if you have represented your school during the current football season, then you're not allowed to play unattached with another team until after the school year.”
Former Oklahoma quarterback Charles Thompson recently got involved with local teams in Football University, or FBU, an organization tied to the U.S. Army All-America game, which holds national tournaments for players starting in 6th grade.
Two Oklahoma FBU teams had been formed, one for 7th graders and one for 8th graders, with 140 players in all. But the teams learned of the rule that required them to withdraw from the competition.
State players have been selected for other national games, like the Eastbay All-America game, the Offense-Defense All-America Bowl, and the National Underclassmen Combine games.
Looking through rosters for these games, it would seem that Oklahoma is one of the few states preventing such participation.
“I think the rule is absurd. It's totally unfair and biased against football,” Thompson said. “They allow club soccer, AAU basketball, softball and baseball to compete in non-sanctioned events throughout the year.
“I think this is an old rule that needs to be addressed and looked at. When I was in high school 25 years ago, there was only one All-America game. Times have changed.”
The OSSAA membership has been trending in that direction with recent updates to this set of rules.