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Sondheimer: Let's offer ideas to help make high school sports better

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Sondheimer: Let's offer ideas to help make high school sports better

The end of the school year makes it appropriate to review, evaluate and offer observations on the state of high school sports in California. Whether leaders in charge like it or not, they need to hear suggestions and feedback, good and bad, from people without fear of retribution, so let me take a shot.

There have been absurd rumors of some private schools wanting to form their own media networks outside the CIF similar to what the University of Notre Dame does in college. Others want to keep challenging the line between education-based sports and those who want to be part of national championships driven by people seeking to make a buck with fewer rules in place. Good luck and goodbye if that’s what you want.

It’s a tricky time. Club sports remain integral in the college recruiting game, if not more important than ever. Private coaches and “scholarship hustlers” keep seeking greater influence, because that’s how they make money. They’re in competition with teachers and school-based coaches. Lessons learned can be the exact opposite of what is taught at schools, and parents don’t care as long as it leads to a free college education. There’s some exceptional private coaches who should be embraced and others who should carry a sign, “Beware.”

So who is going to fight for the CIF to remain relevant and worthy, and what changes or protections must be maintained? That’s where administrators, coaches, players, parents and even sportswriters need to be to be encouraged to offer ideas, solutions and heart-felt criticism to improve an environment that must not be allowed to look anything like the chaos and wild-west atmosphere of the college sports experience.

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Let’s begin with some observations and perceptions that need to be addressed:

Is illegal recruiting is rampant?

We don’t know for sure because the CIF waved the white flag of surrender years ago with rule changes and legal settlements so it would stop getting sued. Section offices don’t accept anonymous allegations and proving recruiting requires a high bar, so everyone assumes it’s happening. What can be done? It goes back to what was mentioned here earlier on how the City Section is cracking down. Multiple transfer students to the same school involving the same sport should trigger a visit from the section office to review paperwork. It’s an easy fix to restore credibility around the state. It’s pure laziness when a section office can’t devote attention to a matter everyone wants addressed

when recruiting is illegal in its bylaws.

Leveling the playing field on exposure

Just like football coaches travel to colleges and other high schools looking for new ideas, schools need to seize the opportunity to empower their own students as broadcasters, leading to greater exposure. Multiple schools are streaming games. Anyone who wants to learn how to do it can make a call to Harvard-Westlake, which has a network for a variety of sports with students announcing, producing, interviewing. Nothing can excite a community more than showcasing students acting like adults, and the initial cost isn’t as prohibitive as some believe.

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Relying on the NFHS Network to broadcast games is hit and miss, particularly for playoffs. Coverage of the state track finals on Friday was supposed to start at 5 p.m. The only information shown was, “This event has been delayed.” A technical issue with the Internet wasn’t resolved for 59 minutes of missed events. It’s embarrassing and something the CIF shouldn’t tolerate for one of its premier events. Spectrum no longer wants to broadcast certain state events as part of an $8-million, 15-year deal that ends in 2026. The CIF needs to find a reliable partner, even if it means turning to students.

Saving small schools

The competitive equity revolution, in which teams play each other regardless of enrollment or geography, is here to stay, but how do you keep small schools involved before they decide they have no chance and give up? The CIF might need to create a separate small-schools division for state competitions.

Live scoring results

The CIF signed a contract with SB Live right before the pandemic in 2019 with the understanding it would provide live scoring access throughout the state. It never happened. The contract was re-negotiated to bring back MaxPreps as a co-digital provider. Then SB Live changed its focus away from providing scores to college recruiting, videos and story writing. MaxPreps, even with years of familiarity in California, hasn’t been able to pull it off either because schools have to provide the personnel and information on their own.

GameChanger is the closest to giving fans the chance to monitor events live as teams in baseball and softball use iPads to keep score and let fans watch with streaming video. Now the Southern Section is trying to develop an app to make it simple for schools to nput scores since the Southern Section is switching to using current results instead of past data to place teams in playoff divisions. Accurate, fast information will be key to moving forward. If the new app works, the state hopes to follow. “We’re looking where all the information can be found in one place,” CIF executive director Ron Nocetti said.

Competitive equity in playoffs

The Southern Section and City Section are headed to having most ports playoff brackets created by using computer algorithms based on the current season instead of placing teams in divisions based on previous performance. It’s the way to go with a caveat. The Southern.Section is allowing each of its sports to develop its own criteria, so there must be transparency and education so everyone understands what specific data is being used. Schools that don’t post their scores could be denied playoff participation.

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Rising ticket prices

The Southern Section is expected to increase ticket prices. The Southern Section Council has given its approval. Did anyone consult with parents? Families are hurting and many parents are working multiple jobs. If it prevents them from watching their kids play, it will be a big mistake. At championship venues, parking was $15 for one basketball championship with general admission $24. The Southern Section receives no revenue from venues charging for parking, but it needs to be in the mix when deciding on a venue. There comes a point when too much is too much.

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Conor McGregor out of UFC 303 with injury, Dana White announces new main event

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Conor McGregor out of UFC 303 with injury, Dana White announces new main event

Dana White announced Thursday night that Conor McGregor’s return to the octagon will not happen at UFC 303, as he is out of his fight against Michael Chandler following an injury. 

A report from MMA journalist Ariel Helwani earlier Thursday said all signs were pointing to McGregor being out of the main event to the point where it was just a “formality.”

“It’s not 100% off but I’d be extremely surprised at this point if it remains and they are actively negotiating with multiple camps to find a replacement,” Helwani posted on X. “It’s all up in the air still but they are proceeding at this time like they need a replacement.”

(L-R) Conor McGregor and Michael Chandler face off during the filming of The Ultimate Fighter at UFC APEX on March 3, 2023, in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)

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McGregor hinted on his Instagram story on Wednesday night that he may be injured. 

There was also a news conference in Dublin, Ireland, on June 3 that was canceled just 12 hours before it was set to start.

It’s unclear what injury McGregor is dealing with. 

With McGregor and Chandler no longer headlining the competition, White announced there will be a co-main event, starting with Alex Pereira facing off against Jiri Prochazka. 

CONOR MCGREGOR’S UFC RETURN APPEARS TO BE GETTING CANCELED: ‘JUST A FORMALITY AT THIS POINT’

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As White said, Pereira is the only fighter in UFC history to win both the middleweight and light heavyweight title belts, and he did it in 736 days over seven fights, which is the shortest amount of time in history as well. 

Pereira has won 10 of his last 11 fights. 

Alex Pereira raises his fist

Brazil’s Alex Pereira arrives for a middleweight bout against Nigeria’s Israel Adesanya at the UFC 281 mixed martial arts event on Nov. 13, 2022, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

As for Prochazka, he’s a former light heavyweight champion as well, currently owning 23 first-round wins. He is 30-4-1 for his career with 25 wins by knockout and three by submission for a 97% finish rate. 

Rounding out the co-main event is No. 3-ranked featherweight Brian Ortega, who has the second-most finishes in featherweight history and the second-most submissions in the weight class as well. Ortega is 16-3 with eight total submissions on his UFC stat sheet. 

He’ll be going head-to-head with Diego Lopes, who has seen 22 of his 24 victories by finish. He’s knocked out 10 opponents and had 12 others submit with an overall 24-6 record. 

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Conor McGregor in Florida

Conor McGregor attends Game Four of the 2023 NBA Finals between the Denver Nuggets and the Miami Heat on June 9, 2023, at Kaseya Center in Miami, Florida. (Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)

So, while McGregor’s hiatus from the UFC must continue, White will still be putting on a show in Las Vegas on June 29.

Follow Fox News Digital’s sports coverage on X, and subscribe to the Fox News Sports Huddle newsletter.

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Dodgers drop series to Rangers after stars fail to deliver in key moment

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Dodgers drop series to Rangers after stars fail to deliver in key moment

The table could not have been set any better for the Dodgers on Thursday night, their two-run deficit seemingly on the verge of disappearing in the eighth inning after Cavan Biggio was hit by a pitch and Austin Barnes singled to right field, putting runners on first and third with no outs for the top of the order.

But three of the best hitters in baseball, a trio that has four most valuable player awards among them and has combined for 36 home runs and 125 RBIs this season, failed to deliver in an eventual 3-1 loss to the Texas Rangers before 50,134 at Dodger Stadium.

Veteran right-hander Michael Lorenzen threw seven strong innings for the Rangers, giving up one run and four hits, striking out two and walking one, his only blemish a hanging sweeper that Andy Pages lined into the left-field seats for a solo homer that pulled the Dodgers to within 3-1 in the seventh.

Setup man David Robertson replaced Lorenzen to start the eighth and hit Biggio, the No. 8 batter, in the back foot with a breaking ball. Barnes, the No. 9 hitter, followed with a single to right to put men on the corners.

But leadoff man Mooke Betts and No. 2 hitter Shohei Ohtani each struck out on three pitches, Betts swinging through a 93-mph cut-fastball and Ohtani whiffing on an 86-mph, down-and-in knuckle-curve.

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Freddie Freeman worked a five-pitch at-bat but struck out swinging through an 89-mph knuckle-curve, making Robertson the only pitcher this season to strike out Betts, Ohtani and Freeman in succession. The Rangers right-hander also accomplished the feat in the eighth inning Wednesday night.

Dodgers shortstop Mookie Betts leaps over Rangers baserunner Adolis Garcia to complete a double play in the fifth inning Thursday.

(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

Texas closer Kirby Yates struck out three of four batters in the ninth for his 10th save, including a 10-pitch battle against Jason Heyward that ended with the Dodgers right fielder swinging through an 86-mph split-fingered fastball.

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With Yoshinobu Yamamoto’s start pushed from Thursday night to Saturday to give the right-hander extra rest after he threw a season-high 106 pitches in a 2-1 win over the New York Yankees on June 7, the Dodgers opted for a bullpen game on Thursday night.

The Dodgers have excelled in such games, going 13-8 with a 3.86 ERA in 21 of them since the start of 2022, including a June 21, 2023, shutout in which seven relievers combined to allow two hits in a 2-0 win over the Angels, a relay effort that turned that season around for a struggling bullpen.

The Dodgers also caught a break when Rangers slugger Corey Seager, whose three-run homer off Walker Buehler powered Texas to a 3-2 win on Wednesday night, was scratched an hour before the game because of left-hamstring tightness, an injury that has hampered the shortstop for the past week.

But this one did not start well for the Dodgers, as “opener” Michael Grove allowed three hits in a two-run first inning and “bulk man” Ryan Yarbrough gave up two singles and walked three in the third inning but somehow limited the damage to one run.

Andy Pages hits a solo home run for the Dodgers in the seventh inning Thursday.

Andy Pages hits a solo home run for the Dodgers in the seventh inning Thursday.

(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

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Josh Smith and Adolis Garcia hit one-out singles in the first inning, and Smith scored on Nathaniel Lowe’s RBI groundout for a 1-0 Texas lead. Wyatt Langford then flared an RBI single to shallow right field that left his bat at 67 mph and traveled just 181 feet to push the lead to 2-0.

Marcus Semien led off the third with a single to center off Yarbrough and took second on Smith’s sacrifice bunt. Adolis Garcia walked. Semien was thrown out at third on the front end of a double-steal attempt, but Lowe walked to put two on.

Langford then burned the Dodgers with another bloop RBI single, this one leaving his bat at 60 mph and traveling 167 feet to shallow right field and just beyond the glove of first baseman Freeman for a 3-0 lead.

Yarbrough walked Jonah Heim to load the bases but struck out Travis Jankowski with a 72-mph curve to prevent further damage.

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The Dodgers’ bullpen then found its footing, with Yarbrough throwing a scoreless fourth, right-hander Yohan Ramirez allowing one hit in a scoreless fifth and sixth, and right-hander Blake Treinen (seventh), left-hander Alex Vesia (eighth) and right-hander Evan Phillips (ninth) adding scoreless innings.

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Kylie Kelce shares thoughts on Harrison Butker's commencement speech: 'Support each other in our choices'

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Kylie Kelce shares thoughts on Harrison Butker's commencement speech: 'Support each other in our choices'

Kylie Kelce, the wife of Philadelphia Eagles great Jason Kelce, shared her thoughts on Harrison Butker’s faith-based commencement speech at Benedictine College last month, which sparked wide debate. 

The Kansas City Chiefs kicker’s speech, during which he urged women graduates to embrace being a “homemaker,” led to attacks from those who believed he was diminishing the role of women in communities. 

Kelce, who was working with the Eagles Autism Foundation to share activities with kids on and off the spectrum Thursday, was asked during an interview what she thought about Butker’s speech, especially being a mother of three. 

Kylie Kelce on NBC April 1, 2024. (Nathan Congleton/NBC via Getty Images)

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“I think that everyone is entitled to their own opinion,” she said, via Cheddar. “I hope that, if anyone does not align with those views in that graduating class, that they know they achieved something. Those women graduating in that class have achieved something that no one can take away from them. Their education will stick with them for the rest of their lives. I hope that they were appropriately celebrated if that was not their view. 

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“If it was, and they’re looking forward to making a family and being a stay-at-home mom, then more power to them.

CHIEFS’ TRAVIS KELCE DEFENDS HARRISON BUTKER AS ‘A GREAT PERSON AND A GREAT TEAMMATE,’ DESPITE DIFFERING VIEWS

“I think, as women, we should support each other in our choices and make sure that we feel as though we can do whatever we would like to do,” she said.

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“So, hopefully, those graduating know that, at the very least, I’m very proud of them and hope that they go on to do whatever makes their heart happy.”

Kylie Kelce in NYC

Kylie Kelce attends the 2023 Night of Too Many Stars benefiting Next for Autism at the Beacon Theatre Dec. 11, 2023, in New York City. (Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for Night of Too Many Stars)

Butker recently stood by his commencement speech while making his first public appearance since his time at Benedictine College. He appeared at the Courage Under Fire Gala in Nashville in late May, which was presented by the Regina Caeli Academy. It’s an institution that “encourages our students to strive for excellence in academics as well as in virtuous living, self-discipline and accountability through a classical education taught in the light of the Catholic tradition.”

“The theme for tonight’s gala, ‘Courage Under Fire’, was decided many months ago, but it now feels providential that this would be the theme after what we have all witnessed these last two weeks,” Butker said. “If it wasn’t clear that the timeless Catholic values are hated by many, it is now.”

Butker continued by saying he understands he’s become a “more polarizing” figure because he spoke about his beliefs, but he won’t be changing them for anyone. 

“Our love for Jesus, and thus, our desire to speak out, should never be outweighed by the longing of our fallen nature to be loved by the world,” he said. “Glorifying God and not ourselves should always remain our motivation despite any pushback or even support. I lean on those closest to me for guidance, but I can never forget that it is not people, but Jesus Christ who I’m trying to please.”

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Butker’s Chiefs peers have defended his character despite their differences in views, including Kelce’s brother-in-law, star tight end Travis Kelce. 

Kylie Kelce and Harrison Butker side by side

Kylie Kelce gave her opinion on Harrison Butker’s faith-based commencement speech at Benedictine College last month. (Getty Images)

“I’ve known him for seven-plus years, probably, eight-plus years. And I cherish him as a teammate,” Kelce said of Butker, whom he calls “Harry.” 

“I think Pat [Mahomes] said it best, where he is every bit of a great person and a great teammate. He’s treated friends and family that I’ve introduced to him with nothing but respect and kindness, and that’s how he treats everyone.

“I can’t say I agree with the majority of [the speech] or just about any of it, outside of just him loving his family and his kids. And I don’t think that I should judge him by his views, especially his religious views, of how to go about life. That’s just not who I am.”

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With her husband retiring after the most recent NFL season, Kylie Kelce continues to work on helping her community with the Eagles Autism Foundation, which was created by Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie, who drew inspiration for the project from his autistic brother. 

Fox News’ Ryan Morik and Paulina Dedaj contributed to this report.

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