Silver Chips Online

Pro/Con: Academic eligibility requirements

By Josh Zipin, Online Managing Sports Editor and Phillip Allen, Online Managing Sports Editor
December 12, 2005
To participate in Montgomery County High school athletics, students must maintain a 2.0 grade point average. For some student-athletes this isn't a problem, but for others the academic requirements are a formidable hurdle. Some people argue that academics should not play a role in determining who gets to play sports and that the best athletes in a school should represent it in athletic competition, but others believe that school takes precedence. Students, parents and administrators all have an opinion on this contested topic. So the question is, are these academic restrictions justified?

Josh says Yes: The current academic requirements are warranted because they uphold the balance between education and athletics by putting education first and because they are not unreachable academic goals.

The purpose of school is for kids to learn, not to play sports. While sports are important, putting them before academics is preposterous. Even the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) believes that sports should take a backseat to education. According to its website, the NCAA mission is to "integrate intercollegiate athletics into higher education so that the educational experience of the student-athlete is paramount." That says it all: athletics should be complementary to academics.

In student-athlete, student comes first. Sometimes athletes think that because they bring glory to their school or because they are talented, they don't have to work hard in school. Unfortunately sometimes other people even coaches buy into this mindset. This was never more evident than with University of Georgia basketball coach Jim Harrick Jr. The young coach, who also doubled as teacher of the course Coaching Principles and Strategies of Basketball, gave his class of Georgia basketball players what was surely one of the easiest tests in the history of college. The test included such questions as "How much is a three-point shot worth?" and "How many halves are in a college basketball game?" He did this to give his players easy credit so they could maintain their GPA. I took the test without even going to a single one of coach Harrick's classes and I got a perfect score.

Of course this is an extreme situation, but it is not uncommon for student-athletes to get special treatment. Some athletes are excused from schoolwork because of their athletic obligations. Recently, study halls have been established to help struggling Blair student-athletes. With such programs in place, student-athletes should not be failing classes. In addition, special treatment for athletes and tests like Harrick's being given to these same students, it is unreasonable for people to complain that a 2.0 or "C" average is too strict as an academic requirement.

The current requirements are satisfactory because they require some effort by students but are attainable. An "A" is the grade for exceptional work and understanding, a "B" is for above average work and a "C" means that the work done was average. To ask student athletes to do average work is not too much to ask.

Kids can lose sight of what is best for them by getting too caught up in sports when in reality athletics will only take them so far. In reality, a very small percentage of high school athletes are good enough to compete in collegiate athletics and eventually make it to the professional level, so for high school athletes to plan on making sports their profession is simply unrealistic. Maintaining a "C" average in high school and subsequently graduating ensures that these athletes have enough basic knowledge to be able to survive in the world outside sports.

Korleone Young is a painfully good example. In high school he was a star at Virginia's Hargrave Military Academy. He made the quantum leap to the NBA, and fell flat on his face. After being chosen in the second round by the Detroit Pistons, Young spent most of his rookie season on injured reserve. He was released at the end of the season, and has since bounced around the NBA's many minor leagues. With only a high school education, finding a decent job outside of basketball is asking a lot. Maintaining a "C" average in high school keeps student-athletes focused enough on school so that they don't fall into an extreme situation like Young's.

High school is a time when teenagers define themselves and transform from a teen to a young adult. An adult who can't spell is crippled in the civilized world and is limited to work in low-level jobs. By requiring Blazer student-athletes to maintain a 2.0 GPA, students are stretched enough so that they learn enough to be able to survive in the real world.

Phil says No: Pushing students to academic success through athletics is a worthy concept but the current academic restrictions, which are meant to help, unfairly hold back many students who should be allowed to play school sports.

The current rigid restrictions, which require a 2.0 GPA, fail to incorporate exceptions for students in extreme situations. Some allowances must be made for these students. For some students who have the intelligence but lack the motivation to succeed in school, this requirement might give them an incentive to do better in school. But for many students, these rules are a terrible limitation.

What if, hypothetically speaking, a student suffers from abuse at home and cannot focus at school? Sports may be one of the only constructive outlets for this student. But then again, how can they be expected to consistently maintain their grades in such a hostile circumstance?

Similar to some intellectual geniuses, some people are equivalent to a genius in sports and deserve the chance to succeed in their field of expertise. If these students can't meet the necessary grade point average, even with the utmost effort, then their joy and possible livelihood is taken away.

One of the great things about athletics is it brings a diverse group of people, especially within the unique Blair community, together. If only the academic elite are allowed to enjoy this social privilege, a large part of sports benefits are lost.

Athletics, though it takes up extensive tracks of time, instills a structure and routine in after-school life that may otherwise not exist. Slowing gang involvement was the motivation behind the creation of the Blair Sports Academies: after-school sports programs funded directly by Montgomery County Public Schools. This program has been a dramatic success and has significantly reduced crime at Blair.

In addition, children in special learning programs like English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) may find it nearly impossible to maintain a 2.0 GPA because they cannot proficiently speak the language. It is unfair to expect kids who are just learning English to receive the same grades as their English-speaking counterparts. In this way the academic requirements unjustly limit athletic participation by ESOL students.

Though I agree all students should be pushed to improve their grade performance these restrictions are not the right way to do it. An amendment is currently being reviewed by the school board that would find middle ground in this debate. Under this amendment freshmen could participate in all after-school activities even when failing to meet requirements if they attend academic support for an allotted amount of time. This proposal gives many more students a chance to play sports while still requiring their effort in the classroom.

Blair's current academic eligibility requirements are unfair.

Click here to take Jim Harrick Jr.'s final exam.

http://silverchips.mbhs.edu/story/5983