Every so often opportunities are presented to the Association that cause reason to reflect, review and contemplate on how it fits within the framework and purpose of education-based athletics.
One such opportunity is a new event the WIAA will be offering for boys basketball programs at member schools to participate in this summer. The “June Jam” is scheduled on the weekend of June 24-26 at the Community First Champion Center in Appleton.
In conjunction with the Wisconsin Basketball Coaches Association, the WIAA will be taking advantage of the opportunity to conduct a “June Scholastic Event” sanctioned by the National Federation of State High School Associations and the National Collegiate Athletic Association, which was first made available in 2019. As many as 20 other states have conducted these events, including our neighboring states of Illinois, Minnesota and Michigan.
Perhaps the first thought that comes to mind is how does this fit with the purpose of the WIAA? Why would such an activity even be considered, especially with its focus on recruiting? The influences and pursuit of high school standouts have not been traditionally embraced by our association that has championed participation and recognition of student-athletes of all skill levels.
On the surface, it may be viewed by some traditionalists as another club influence imposed on the school-base model. However, the sanctioning at the national level as well as the state’s high school basketball leadership believe the event attempts to diminish the influence of club sports in the recruiting process.
The stated purpose of the scholastic event is to emphasize academic and positive recruiting interactions, develop and strengthen relationships between college and high school basketball coaches, develop a stronger pathway from education-based member high school to college participation and to minimize the leverage on harmful outside influences.
That final point is where all but the most staunch traditionalists may reconsider their apprehensions for high school state associations to be involved in such events. They may not totally accept the concept, but it provides the connection with the purpose of the association as stated in the Constitution. Article II of the Constitution states one of the three parts of the association’s purpose is “to promote uniformity of standards in interscholastic athletic competition, and prevent exploitation by special interest groups of the school program and the individual's ability.”
The June Jam is an attempt to remove the unsavory aspects of the recruiting process and the exploitation of student-athletic and school program by individuals and handlers outside the educational confines that leverage access to prospects for considerable compensation.
Measures have been put in place to take the money influences out of recruiting. To be in compliance with the NFHS sanctioning of the event, state associations are not permitted to charge school teams more than $250 for participating, which will be used to pay officials and workers. In addition, this is the only event Division 1 men’s coaches are able to attend during the month of June, as long as it is conducted by a state association or state basketball coaching association.
While other showcases are only focused on the super elite, the June Jam will provide student-athletes that may not have the resources or connections to participate on elite club teams the opportunity to be seen and evaluated by college coaches.
The June Jam is also permissible by WIAA summertime contact rules. Schools can use their available five contact days in the summer to participate, and only school teams coached by school coaches are eligible for the event.
If an event of this nature is in the best interest of the membership, it also begs the question why only boys basketball and why not both genders and other sports? The response is practical. The undesired element that has become prevalent in boys basketball recruiting has not been determined to be as much of an issue with Division 1 women’s basketball or other sports’ recruiting practices at this time. In addition, women’s basketball has different recruiting windows for contact with recruits, and the NCAA and NFHS has only provided sanctioning for a “June Scholastic Event” for boys basketball. No other such events have been sanctioned by the two governing entities.
It will be important for the membership to reflect and provide constructive feedback once we have experienced the event for the first time to determine whether this is the type of service to our association this is intended to provide.
While it may be fair to question how the concept of the June Jam aligns with the purpose as well as the traditional participation and education-based philosophy of state associations, the motive, intention and attempt to remove the unscrupulous exploitation of prep boys basketball student-athletes, their families and member schools in the recruitment process is commendable