7-on-7 tourney at Shiloh part of Kiper controversy

Mel Kiper Jr.’s new 7-on-7 passing league tournament instantly became one of the more famous in the nation after controversy surrounding an ESPN investigative report on the activity.

Kiper, the famed ESPN NFL draft analyst, has a new business venture, with his name on a national tournament. Around 15 Georgia high schools, including Stephenson and M.L. King, are scheduled to compete in Kiper’s 7-on-7 Georgia championship today at Shiloh High School.

In 7-on-7, seven offensive skills players compete against the same number on defense in a version of “touch” football, allowing teams to train in areas of the passing game during the offseason. Most teams consist of players from the same high school, and there also are all-star teams.

The NCAA is concerned about the influence of third parties, including non-high school coaches, on recruits who play for the teams. Last week, the SEC voted to ban 7-on-7 tournaments and games from the campuses of its schools, along with the involvement and attendance of its coaches.

Kiper’s connection with a national tournament created controversy after an investigative report on 7-on-7 summer football by ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” program May 29.

At the end of the report and in a story on its website, ESPN disclosed that Kiper “was no longer involved” with a national 7-on-7 tournament. It was amended to say Kiper “later changed his mind and is maintaining his relationship with the tournament.”

Kiper said the confusion was about timing. Kiper said when he was asked to appear on the “Outside the Lines” show, he was unsure of his involvement with the national 7-on-7 tournament that sported his name.

“When we worked out what we had to do, we called back ESPN, and that’s when they had already taped that piece. ... It was Memorial Day weekend, so unfortunately there was nothing that could be done,” Kiper said.

“Anything now, such as the re-airings, have been changed to say that now I’m involved. It was a coincidental thing that it aired at a time when we were trying to be upfront, honest and official with everything.”

Kiper said he asked for and received permission from ESPN for involvement with the tournament.

He sees 7-on-7 football as a growing trend that is impacting college and NFL football.