WASHINGTON (AP) — Friday night lights are lure enough for young football players, the Supreme Court said Thursday in a decision that upholds limits on high school sports recruiting.
The 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 were not yet attending the school.
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.”