This past week Lone Peak High School reached rarefied air, claiming the number one national high school basketball ranking in the Maxpreps poll (See link: http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865568941/Utah-high-school-basketball-Lone-Peak-ranked-No-1-headed-to-Florida-tourney.html). Never before had a team from Utah or even the Rocky Mountain Region reached the top ranking in any high school basketball poll. The Knights have since then won three games at the City of Palms Invitational in Florida before falling in the championship game to now number one ranked Montverde Academy of Montverde, Florida 66-45. The Knights did end Chester, Pennsylvania's 61 game winning streak in the semifinals.
The Lone Peak squad is led by future BYU Cougars T.J. Haws, Nick Emery, and Erik Mika. Quincy Lewis coaches the Knights who previously won a state championship when led by Haws' brother and current BYU star Tyler Haws. Lone Peak also captured a state championship last year with almost virtually the same cast that it now fields. T.J. Haws' brother Tyler Haws was a two time state player of the year. MWC followers will also recognize names like Toolson and Shumway who play vital roles on this year's team.
Not coincidentally, the Salt Lake Tribune's lead story in its Sunday edition featured a series of articles on the new rules implemented by the Granite School District regarding required reporting of booster payments in high school athletic programs. See Link:(http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865568941/Utah-high-school-basketball-Lone-Peak-ranked-No-1-headed-to-Florida-tourney.html).
This isn't the first time Utah's high school procedures and policies have come under scrutiny. Previously, Bingham High School's football team reached a number four USA Today final national ranking in 2010. (See Link: http://www.binghamfootball.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&catid=62:uncategorized&id=140:coach-dave-peck&Itemid=106). The ranking was as much due to coach Dave Peck's outstanding coaching as it was to Utah's open enrollment policy which allowed Bingham to essentially "recruit" top players from across Salt Lake City to fill its roster. All too similar to what Cottonwood High School was represented to have done in the Salt Lake Tribune articles.
The Salt Lake Tribune's own article on Lone Peak's ranking clearly indicates that 6'10" center Erik Mika was forced to sit out a year when he transferred from Waterford Academy a small 2A school to complete Lone Peak's talented team this season. Clearly, another case of a player picking a school as opposed to living in a school district and attending school in that district. http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/tribpreps/55469515-190/lone-peak-knights-team.html.cs
I am not directly involved in any of this, however, my officiating has taken me across Lone Peak High School, Bingham High School and Cottonwood High School so I have seen the kids and the parents and the schools that have benefited. I have talked with coaches and players at these schools. Perhaps I feel a certain connection to these schools. However, not living in Salt Lake City or seeing these teams/schools on a regular basis anymore I am likely more apt to comment.
Also on Saturday afternoon previously mentioned former Lone Peak star Tyler Haws scored 42 points in leading Brigham Young University past Virginia Tech University at Energy Solutions Arena. He's now a collegiate star and possible NBA player in the making.
The Salt Lake Tribune articles on Cottonwood High School feature a series of comments from current NFL player and former Cottonwood star Stanley Havili of the Philadelphia Eagles defending Cottonwood High School and its benefactor/offensive coordinator, millionaire Scott Cate.
Because of Utah's open enrollment policy (specified in both articles), Utah has given its high schools advantages that other states and districts don't, creating Bingham's and Lone Peak's ranking and Cottonwood High School's own situation. The open enrollment, national rankings and high school benefactors are unique to Utah.
This issue is complicated by the Salt Lake Tribune itself and other media outlets which are commending the Granite School District for cracking down on booster and benefactor donations through more stringent reporting requirements (see http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/sports/55461027-77/football-coach-donations-programs.html.csp , article by Kurt Kragthorpe).
At the same time the media props up the main beneficiaries of the financial support of these schools. Haws' scoring outburst was featured prominently on the front page of the Tribune sports section on Sunday (http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/cougars/55542959-88/byu-haws-cougars-points.html.csp) and Lone Peak's own number one ranking was detailed previously by the Tribune (http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/tribpreps/55469515-190/lone-peak-knights-team.html.csp).
Is the Salt Lake Tribune going to suddenly stop reporting on BYU's basketball team? Not likely. Should itself place a less emphasis on the national ranking of these high school teams? Also, not likely. Yet, that's where the solution has to come from.
It's the media itself (particularly ESPN which has created the massive athletic programs at universities across the country) that is responsible for what is now seeping into high schools like Cottonwood, Bingham and Lone Peak.