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Commentary: I won’t be rocking this vote

BRADENTON

According to the folks at ESPNRise, the prep national football title goes to St. Thomas Aquinas.

According to USA Today and Rivals, the national title goes to South Penola High in Batesville, Miss.

And according to HighSchoolSports.net -- with an assist from USA Today -- the national title goes to a team of your choosing.

With a few clicks of a mouse, you get to decide the Massey Virtual National Championship. The bracket includes 64 teams split into four regions -- East, Midwest, South and West -- with each region seeded one through 16, and your vote determines who beats whom until a winner is announced Jan. 11.

Pretty heady stuff.

We’re told the simulated matchups were programmed by Ken Massey, the same mathematician whose models helped create the wildly popular, always efficient and perpetually spot-on BCS rankings.

The winning team gets $250 toward the school’s athletic department and a trophy. Am I the only one who finds this ridiculous?

I’m not a big fan in crowning prep national champs in the first place. Find me the guy who has seen every single high school football team, and I’ll find you someone willing to admit that they own every Creed album.

What’s great about the high school game, and every other game with a tournament, is that these teams get to play it out and earn their championships on the field. Aquinas, for example, earned the Class 5A state title by beating Manatee and Tampa Plant -- not because someone simply thought they could have defeated Manatee and Tampa Plant.

But deciding a national champ through fan voting?

Wow.

It basically boils down to a popularity contest. If you thought stuffing a ballot box was easy, wait until you do so backed by the power of the Internet. All it takes is one overzealous coach or athletic director to fire off a mass email to everyone he knows, and suddenly, the playing field is as level as the Rocky Mountains.

(And don’t think that won’t happen now that there’s some money to be made.)

I have nothing against Ken Massey -- I may not like the BCS, but Massey’s math must be pretty good if people continue to use it. But will people vote for Aquinas, for example, to win their first-round game against Bentonville, Ark., because the Raiders have a better power ranking?

I have no clue who has the best prep football team in America. No one does. But it makes for a fun debate and gets people interested in high school sports, and in turn, gives more exposure to players deserving of college scholarships.

I just don’t like this. But this is America, so if you want to vote, feel free.

I’d rather stick to the sideline every Friday night in the fall, when two teams come together and the best one usually wins.

The people’s champion? Maybe not. But the rightful champion? No doubt.

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