With the latest reports surfacing from the Hula Bowl, the All-Star circuit is becoming a competitive monopoly with games trying to out-do each other. This is potentially a bigger problem for the players:

The success of the Reese’s Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama, under the leadership of game director Jim Nagy has boosted the off-season all-star circuit into a money making machine. With college football now headed in a new direction after NIL laws were approved, it’s only a matter of time before all-star events will be paying players to participate in their events. For now, most of the events are free to the players as an opportunity for additional exposure to professional clubs.

However, this year has complicated the all-star circuit as some events have switched dates and management and other new events have attempted to kick off. All of the changes have been centered around one thing – money.

The traditional standing of the all-star events is changing due to decisions made across the all-star circuit. Events are not satisfied with their positioning and now are becoming increasingly competitive to land talent in their events. The problems are beginning to surmount as the talent remains confused and uncertain.

Some game directors have turned to conducting manner in underhanded and manipulative tactics. Others are directly threatening players and attempting to use their fear as a means to entrap them into their event. The competitiveness and monopoly being played is potentially a problem to the entire process.

The speculation across the league with the Shrine Bowl

The East-West Shrine Bowl is under new leadership this season following the hire of game director Eric Galko. Galko is a former XFL Director of Player Personnel and has worked in media as a scout and consultant.

Galko has made several adjustments already in his first season. The first adjustment was to move the game week, which was traditionally held the week prior to the Senior Bowl. Galko and the event adjusted the event to conflict with two different bowl events – the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl and the Senior Bowl – and moved the event to Las Vegas. It is very difficult to attend both the Collegiate Bowl and the Shrine Bowl with the dates adjustment and impossible to go to the Senior Bowl.

After adjusting how the rosters are broken down, by personnel, Galko announced that the event would not show the weigh-in event, instead players would be individually weighed upon arrival and check-in by the Shrine Bowl staff in private. NFL Scouts and executives have been extremely critical of the decision to nix the weigh-in event. The weigh-in’s are often the first chance that NFL scouts and coaches get to see the body build of a player as they start to formulate their work-out plans for the prospect. Does the prospect need to work the weight room? What can he add to his frame? These are the types of questions answered there.

The issue with the changes to the Shrine Bowl

The first issue with the Shrine Bowl is that the changes made are all aggressive toward the system that was already in place. The changing of the dates was intentional. Players can’t perform now in both the Shrine Bowl and the Senior Bowl as some had previously done. The Senior Bowl would often “call-up” players from the Shrine Bowl the week after to fill roster spots that opened last minute at the Senior Bowl, typically added by NFL team request. Those opportunities won’t be opening anymore. Those “call-up” opportunities will be awarded to prospects who perform at the Collegiate Bowl.

The move to Las Vegas is an attempt to draw players to their game. Most young men dream of a week in Las Vegas, so why wouldn’t some of them cash in the opportunity to experience the city while playing football? It can’t get much better than that!

However, the looking glass is very clear to what the Shrine Bowl wants to do – they want to overtake the Senior Bowl as the main event in the all-star circuit. In their quest to do so, they may lose the attention of the league they want to impress and limit the players opportunities after their game who attend.

To be clear, the Shrine Bowl treats the players that attend their event with the upmost respect and do not engage in any bad behavior. The issue that I see right now is that the business decisions that they are making may hurt players more than help as they try to overtake the Senior Bowl and become the premier all-star event.

The reported Hula Bowl incident

We have praised the Hula Bowl on social media for the impressive roster that they have constructed this year, the games first event held in Orlando, Florida. The Draft Diamonds team, who have taken over the scouting for the game, have done a masterful job of recruiting and adding talent to the event. It’s by far the best Hula Bowl roster in recent memory, a game that kicked in 2020 for the first time since 2004 and played through the 2021 off-season.

Despite that impressive roster, there have been reports that surfaced regarding the Hula Bowl and some manipulative conduct toward prospects in the game. NotAngryScout on Twitter, an anonymous NFL Scout, reported that a player who was withdrawing from the game had been threatened by the Hula Bowl to be billed with unused travel.

All-Star games cannot do this to players. If you are a prospect in a game and the event staff threatens you with this, there is no legal standing and they cannot bill you.

If a player receives the opportunity to play at a bigger event with more talent and they take it, that’s perfectly acceptable. That’s what these events are actually about – the talent displaying to professional clubs what they are capable of doing. The Hula Bowl needs to keep that as the priority and understand that they are at best fourth-fiddle in the all-star circuit.

Editors Note: The Hula Bowl denied any claims of this happening. A player had to back out, due to an injury, but no demands to pay unused travel were made.

The Cajun Bowl problems

It’s not just an epidemic among repeat events, but the newer events trying to establish themselves as well. We announced that we wouldn’t cover the Cajun All-Star Bowl last month and immediately faced threats of “legal action” for “false claims.” Bryan “Big B” Beasley, the Game Director, personally insulted me for my military service, making fun of my PTSD and telling me I was a “sad sad dude,” and to “get the Mental Help you need !”

Several agents and personal trainers have reached out to me since the article was written about the conduct of Beasley with players and trying to get them into his game. As noted, Beasley claims that players will not perform in his event if they perform in another all-star bowl with a single exception:

The recent reports that I have received is that Beasley attempts to manipulate players into attending his game over all others. One prospect, who had an invitation to another event, wouldn’t receive an invitation to the Cajun Bowl unless he dropped out of the other bowl game he was attending, and even then Beasley wouldn’t guarantee a spot. “Basically,” I was told, “he knows some seniors won’t have any other [bowl game] opportunities and [he is] trying to use his bowl game as leverage.”

Let us not forget the intention and purpose of the college all-star circuit

The purpose of all-star games is being lost in the potential finances that people can gain from the sponsorships and events surrounding an all-star game. The purpose is to put on an event that NFL prospects and clubs can use to meet and interview for open roster positions. It’s not about money, it’s not about having the best roster. It’s about putting those two things together so that NFL departments can meet with players.

What is happening is that the waters are becoming murkier by the day for football players looking to start their professional careers. Every decision that they make is one that can help or hurt their career. Every player wants to take as many opportunities as they can – it takes one person to say “yes” and give them a chance. Why are these all-star games so willing to make the system cloudy for prospects and limit their real opportunities?

The answer – money.

I do understand that this is a business and that money and profit is the objective of a business, but the underhanded and manipulative tactics and conduct has to stop. It’s confusing for the players, it’s preventing access for some clubs, and the players are hurt the most.

Without the players, there is no all-star circuit. Let’s not forget that.

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By John Vogel

NFL Draft Analyst. Dad.

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