By Jim Halley, USA TODAY
Last week, when ESPN's announcers talked about the players at the Under Armour All-America high school football game, they noted six of the top 10 seniors in the country were in their game. Saturday, when the Army All-American Bowl is played on NBC, the announcers might note eight of the top 10 seniors in the country are in their game.
And they will both be right, depending on which rankings you use.
The connection between recruiting services and the biggest high school all-star games raises eyebrows about rankings and has one player's parent calling the selections "cutthroat."
Scouts from Scouts Inc., a recruiting service owned by ESPN, helped select players for the Under Armour All-America Game. Scouts from Rivals.com, which is owned by Yahoo, helped choose players for the Army All-American Bowl.
Based on the ranking sites last week, 78.2% (79 of 101) of players on the Army All-American Bowl roster were ranked higher by Rivals.com than by Scouts and 75.3% (67 of 89) on the Under Armour roster were ranked higher by Scouts than by Rivals.
The differences can be startling. Army All-American Bowl participant Jake Heaps of Sammamish, Wash., is the top-ranked player overall on Scout.com and the top-ranked quarterback on Rivals.com but isn't listed in ESPNU's Top 150 by Scouts Inc.
Cretin-Derham Hall (St. Paul) lineman Seantrel Henderson, ranked No. 1 by Rivals.com and No. 4 by Scouts Inc., is in the Army game. He was subject of a bit of a recruiting frenzy, according to his father, Sean Henderson.
"Things were said as to how his rankings could change, how bloggers would blog about him," Sean Henderson said. "I didn't take them as threats. Wherever Seantrel wanted to go was cool with me. I just wanted him to have fun. But it was interesting how far the competition between the games went, how cutthroat it was."
Allen Wallace, national editor of Scout.com, which is not affiliated with either game, said the money involved in television games might be behind the discrepancy in the rankings: "If you hear some guy say, this is the No. 1 running back, that makes their telecast sound like it has the top players. I would suspect rankings would be affected by who they get in the game."
Quarterback Phillip Sims of Oscar Smith (Chesapeake, Va.) has said he'll attend Alabama and played in the Under Armour game. He is ranked No. 37 by Scouts and No. 55 by Rivals.
"I look at it as a business, a money-making business," Sims said of rankings and scouting services. "I made a decision to go to the Under Armour game before ESPN's rankings even came out. I thought I would have a better time."
Tom Luginbill, national recruiting director of Scouts, and Jeremy Crabtree, a national football recruiting analyst with Rivals, said there was no connection between their services rankings and what game players are in.
"We're far more concerned with how accurate we can be," Luginbill said. "We've never gotten to the point where we're so trivial we'll drop a player because of which game he goes to."
Said Crabtree, "It would look bad for us to show a bias."
Copyright 2010 USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Co. Inc.