Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Prep Recruiting Limits Are OK'd; the Supreme Court Rules for Tennessee's Athletic Association

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Prep Recruiting Limits Are OK'd; the Supreme Court Rules for Tennessee's Athletic Association

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON -- Friday night lights are enough of a lure for young football players, the Supreme Court said Thursday in a decision that upholds limits on high school sports recruiting.

The nation's high court ruled in a dispute between a Tennessee athletic association and a football powerhouse, the private Brentwood Academy near Nashville.

The school challenged a rule of the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association, which governs high school sports in the state. The association bars schools from contacting prospective students about their sports programs.

Games have rules, wrote Justice John Paul Stevens in the unanimous decision. "It is only fair that Brentwood follow them."

"Hard-sell tactics directed at middle school students could lead to exploitation, distort competition between high school teams and foster an environment in which athletics are prized more highly than academics," Stevens wrote.

Brentwood argued that the restriction violated its free-speech rights, even though it voluntarily joined the association.

The dispute arose from a letter that Brentwood's football coach sent to a dozen eighth-graders in 1997, inviting them to attend spring training at the school. The students already had been accepted and signed enrollment contracts for the fall at Brentwood but weren't yet attending the school.

"It is a heady thing," Stevens wrote, for an eighth-grader to be contacted directly by a coach and invited to join a high school sports team.

Brentwood coach Carlton Flatt, who stepped down as coach in December after 34 years, told the boys that equipment would be distributed and "getting involved as soon as possible would definitely be to your advantage." He signed the letter, "Your Coach."

Stevens compared the case to one in which the court upheld a state bar association's limits on solicitations by lawyers. …

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