The final Super 25 high school football rankings might have to wait this year on a postseason bowl game to see who is the No. 1 team in the country.
Plans are in the works for ESPNU to televise Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas), currently the No. 1 team in the Super 25, against the next-highest ranked team that is eligible and willing to play on Dec. 18. The bowl game is being organized by Paragon Marketing Group. Officials are still looking for a sponsor.
Last year, Paragon organized a three-game State Champions Bowl Series on a single day in Boca Raton, Fla., with teams from three states.
“People doubted our ability to put last year’s State Champions Bowl Series together and we were able to get it done,” said Rashid Ghazi, a partner with Paragon. “It’s our intention to move forward and make the game happen this year. It aired on ESPNU last year and they have an interest in airing it again.
“There are a lot of moving pieces but we have been successful in putting games on and I see no reason why we shouldn’t be successful this year in getting the event together. The biggest elements are we need permission from two states to let the right teams play and we need to secure a title sponsor.”
The No. 2 team, St. John Bosco (Bellflower, Calif.), and No. 3 Allen, Texas, play for state associations that do not allow teams to play in national events after their state championships. The Texas state championships are the same weekend as the proposed bowl game. So, if the season ended today, Bishop Gorman’s opponent would be No. 4 Colquitt County (Moultrie, Ga.).
Bishop Gorman would have to win its seventh consecutive state title and Colquitt would also have to win its second consecutive state title. Because of the event’s cost, however, the biggest if of all would be getting a title sponsor.
Last season, Burger King sponsored the three-game series, with three games organized by Paragon, all televised on ESPNU. The highest-ranked team to play in the event was Booker T. Washington (Miami), which went into the event No. 4 but finished the season No. 2 after winning its bowl game against then-No. 8 Bingham (South Jordan, Utah).
The road for Colquitt to play in a one-game bowl event this season, or another Georgia 6A state champion such as Grayson (Loganville), now No. 19, is fairly straightforward.
“If we’re fortunate enough to win our state title and finish undefeated, I would entertain playing anyone in the country,” Packers coach Rush Propst said. “If it was Bishop Gorman, I think it would be a tremendous matchup. Of course, our state association would have to approve of us playing and I hope they would because of the Wheeler situation last year.”
The Georgia High School Association voted last season to allow the boys basketball team from Wheeler (Marietta) to play in the Dicks Sporting Goods High School Nationals in New York City. That makes Georgia only the fifth state high school association to approve its members to play in a postseason event, the others being Arizona, Florida, Utah and Washington.
GHSA spokesperson Steve Figueroa said in an email any GHSA team wishing to play in a national event after its regular season would have to apply to GHSA Executive Director Gary Phillips. If Phillips turned down the request, the school could then appeal the decision to the GHSA Trustees.
The Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association’s Board of Control is scheduled to vote whether Bishop Gorman can play in the bowl game at a special meeting Nov. 4.
Complicating that decision is Findlay Prep (Henderson, Nev.) has already played in several postseason national basketball events, including last season’s DICK’S Sporting Goods Invitational.
“One of the agenda items will be on allowing schools to participate beyond our season,” NIAA assistant director Donnie Nelson said. “Right now, they do not permit that to happen. Paragon Marketing has approached us about that. Findlay Prep is a member of our state association, but they have their own membership category and they’re the only school in that category. Does Findlay being allowed to play in postseason events mean that Bishop Gorman will be? We’re trying to figure out that as well. I don’t know which way the board would vote because we haven’t surveyed our schools.”
Even if the NIAA’s Board of Control approves, Bishop Gorman athletic director Sally Nieman said it is not a foregone conclusion the Gaels would play.
“Obviously, we’re waiting for directions from the NIAA,” Nieman said. “We have some internal things to discuss as far as what’s best for the school and what’s best for the team. It’s definitely something we are kicking around.”
A yes vote would also open the door for other Nevada schools to play in postseason events in other sports, including boys basketball, another sport that Bishop Gorman is the defending state champion in. Findlay Prep does not play for the state title.
“I think Findlay has kind of set the model by participating in the DICK’S Nationals,” Bishop Gorman boys basketball coach Grant Rice said. “I think that’s been a positive thing for Nevada. Having Findlay Prep around has brought a lot more recognition to the state. I’m not sure that is going to play in the minds of the board. We’ve had a lot of success recently, but everything goes in cycles and this would really open doors for other schools and other sports in Nevada.”
Even though a one-game bowl would be less expensive than last season’s three-game bowl series, at least one of the teams would have to travel (Bishop Gorman’s representatives have said they wouldn’t mind hosting), and there would be payments made to the schools and the participating state associations (last year, participating state associations in the Burger King series were paid $50,000 apiece).
Colquitt has a difficult road to win its state title. The Packers faces 5-3 Tift County (Tifton) this week, unbeaten Camden County (Kingsland) in two weeks and then has to survive four playoff games. If the Packers falter, another team that could play in the bowl game would be IMG Academy (Bradenton, Fla.), which is No. 7 now but would likely finish higher in the rankings if it won its final two games.
IMG coach Kevin Wright, preparing for his team’s game Saturday night in Dover, Del., with Eastern Christian (Elkton, Md.), left little doubt what his team would like to do.
“Most definitely, we want to play BG!” Wright texted.
Ghazi said he would ultimately like to see a three- or four-game postseason bowl series every year.
“This year, we’re looking to create one game, but next year, we want to go back to a model of three or four games involving multiple states that have given permission for their teams to play,” Ghazi said.