Pickerington North to snub Harr's signing


National signing day is Wednesday, Feb. 6, and it marks one of the busiest days of the year for high school athletics directors, particularly for those in some of central Ohio's largest school districts.

Because recognizing the accomplishments of student-athletes can provide other benefits, such as inspiring younger players or honoring a team for its success, athletics departments often try to spice up their signing ceremonies.

Those who attend might hear a speech or even several, and occasionally drama unfolds if one of the athletes waits until the ceremony to announce where he or she will attend college.

You can bet there will be lots of cake as well.

On this year's signing day at Pickerington North, senior Godwin Igwebuike, who has verbally committed to play football for Northwestern University, is expected to headline the list of athletes being honored.

Senior Tommy Harr, another standout athlete from North, will be signing to play soccer at Dayton, but he won't be participating in the school ceremony.

Harr, who grew up playing soccer and attending school in Pickerington, made second-team all-OCC-Ohio Division during his sophomore and junior seasons with the Panthers. He also plays for Columbus Crew Academy.

In February 2012, U.S. Soccer mandated that teams in its Development Academy begin playing 10-month schedules, including in the fall. Crew Academy is under that umbrella, which meant athletes such as Harr were forced, beginning with this school year, to choose between playing for their high school team or for Crew Academy.

Knowing he'd be giving up his senior prep season was a price Harr decided he was willing to pay to continue being part of a premier soccer instructional program.

As it turns out, the decision has cost him something else.

School officials decided Harr won't be recognized at North's signing ceremony because he didn't play for the school last fall. He will be among numerous members of Crew Academy who will participate in a signing ceremony at its facilities on the south side of Columbus.

But shouldn't his school honor him as well? There are multiple issues to consider.

Harr made a choice not to be a part of North's boys soccer program last fall, which some might see as disqualifying him from deserving recognition by the school's athletics department.

Many want to place blame on Crew Academy for forcing teens to choose between playing high school or club during the fall, but athletics departments have a choice as well.

Dublin Jerome found itself in the same situation when it recently announced that senior Tyler Kidwell will be included in its signing ceremony along with four other athletes.

Kidwell, like Harr, formerly was a key player for his high school soccer team who chose to play for Crew Academy as a senior. He will be signing with Ohio State.

"It's a little tricky of a situation I suppose, but Tyler played here for three years and his high school coach (Nate Maust) wanted to be a part of (Kidwell's signing)," Jerome athletics director Ryan Walker said.

It would be one thing if Harr had never been a part of the Panthers' winning program, but he had a hand in their success. Some of his individual development also might not have occurred if not for his experience at North.

Igwebuike is expected to be joined by other football and soccer players in North's signing ceremony.

Would it really hurt the school to announce just one more name along with those other accomplished athletes?

Jarrod Ulrey is a ThisWeek sportswriter. Follow his blog, "On the Recruiting Trail," for the latest in central Ohio high school recruiting news.