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High school players won’t risk eligibility in football classic

Alabama high school football players planning on playing in the Georgia vs. Alabama Indoor Football Classic do not have to worry about drawing a penalty from the Alabama High School Athletic Association.

Because the players are not being sent to the game by their schools, the event does not need to be sanctioned by the AHSAA, and participants will not lose eligibility for other sports, AHSAA executive director Steve Savarese said.

“They’re all seniors, so they don’t have eligibility left, so they won’t lose any,” Savarese said. “They’re going to the game as individuals, so we don’t control that.”

Players often are permitted to represent their schools in state and national all-star games. But playing in an non-sanctioned game during that sport’s season can cost players eligibility, said AHSAA communications director Ron Ingram.

“Football, more than a lot of other sports, has a lot of rules,” he said. “For instance, only 50 percent of an all-star team can be made up of players from one high school, to stop a team from being able to play year-round. There are other rules that deal with AAU, and there are a lot of other rules that could hurt their eligibility in the state, but (the indoor classic) won’t.”

Non-sanctioned games are an area of interest for the AHSAA because high school athletes are covered by the organization’s insurance during their sport’s season.

The AHSAA rules became a concern to Columbus Lions coach Jason Gibson, whose team is hosting the inaugural event Feb. 22 in the Columbus Civic Center.

“I wanted to make sure we weren’t hurting the players, but it’s not against the rules for them to play when the season is over,” Gibson said.

Russell County coach Rico White will coach the Alabama all-stars. Unlike players, he must get approval from the AHSAA. The paperwork is “mostly a formality,” Savarese said.

Brookstone coach Blair Harrison will head the Georgia squad.

The involvement of players and coaches in the all-star game did not raise any issues with the Georgia High School Athletic Association, Gibson said.

Each all-star team will have about 20 players. The game will use indoor football rules.

A portion of the proceeds from the game will be used to purchase an automated external defibrillator for each head coach’s school. The Lions also will give away a $1,000 scholarship to Columbus State University to one student at halftime. (Got for details on how to win.)