Until last year, the annual D.C. Coaches All-Star football game, scheduled for Friday night at RFK Stadium, and contests like it around the country gave high school players a final chance to put their talents on display in the hope of getting a college scholarship.
But the adoption of an NCAA rule that prevents Division I and II coaches from attending games in July has changed that, and although area high school and college coaches, in general, oppose the rule, they are not overly concerned it will threaten the all-star game's existence.
"It is not the main purpose of the game," said James Tillerson, head coach at Theodore Roosevelt High School and a principal organizer of this 15th of the series. "Many of the kids who play in the game have already received scholarships, but a secondary purpose has always been to give those kids who are overlooked during the season another chance to show they are deserving of a scholarship.
"It hurts in that sense. I'm not really upset about it, but I think it's detrimental to both the players involved and the coaches," Tillerson said. "What a lot of people don't realize is that these kids are 17, 18 years old; they haven't reached their potential yet. I know from experience that a kid can mature a great deal between November and July.
"Last year, no players received scholarships after the game, but I remember before the rule went into effect, there were a lot of kids who were signed that day. The coaches will receive films of the game, anyway, but I'm sure most of them would rather be there in person."
Tillerson, who is confident the rule will be changed eventually, would rather look at the positive side of the game. Many players, he said, are happy just to compete in RFK Stadium against the best senior talent in the area.
And, he added, any profits will be used to help unsigned players through their first years of college, where many attempt to make teams as walk-ons. Although the D.C. Coaches Association, which sponsors the game, has barely broken even in recent years, there is the chance that a combination of good weather and solid talent will mean a profit.
"If we give the kids $200, $300, it can help them through their first year. But they're on their own after that," Tillerson said.
Maryland's Bobby Ross said, "I don't like the rule because there's very little recruiting going on in July, anyway. By the middle of the summer, most coaches pretty much know what their team's going to look like and the all-star game will give them a chance to get one more look at these players before they start fall practices. I think the game provides a good opportunity for the kids. It's the type of game I'd take my family to, just to relax."
Howard's Joe Taylor said the situation could be helped by changing the game from summer to spring, which has already been done in Maryland.
"I'm certain the date will have to be moved if the all-star concept is to survive," he said. "I think it would be to the advantage of the kids. Some play other sports like baseball, but it wouldn't hurt them that much. It gives them a chance to enjoy the summer."