When sports is played in wrong courts

SIDELINES

October 21, 1992|By PAT O'MALLEY

Over the next couple of days, two decisions that could have severe, negative ramifications for high school athletics will be made.

The Anne Arundel County School Board will decide what academic requirements should be deemed fair for athletes, and a Prince George's County Circuit Court judge will be asked to rule on player eligibility in a decision that could affect the state Class 4A football playoffs.

According to the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association guidelines, High Point has an ineligible player, and Severna Park, a 14-0 loser to High Point in the season-opener, has been handed a win by forfeit. The judge could make things very complicated if he rules in favor of the player on Friday.

And, Anne Arundel's out-of-touch school board will vote on the controversial academic requirements for athletes tonight at a public hearing.

Back in August, the board, with a lot of new faces, recommended a 2.0 grade-point average for athletes, effective January 1993.

Most coaches and athletes can accept that, and that has been reported by a committee of teachers, coaches and administrators charged with studying the new proposal. Tonight, the board will vote to accept the new policy as is or alter it.

What troubles most is the additional part of the new policy that says if a student-athlete fails a course he can't play, and if he is on 20 days probation for failing to meet the requirements, he not only can't play, he can't practice.

Students can graduate with an average below a D (0.6-1.5 is considered a D, 0.6 or lower is an "E"), yet a student who represents his school on one of its sports teams can not fail one course or he will be sentenced to no-play status.

Some people think that an athlete can fail a course but have a GPA of 2.00 or better and still play.

Not so. A student's GPA can be a 3.5, but if there is one failed course on his report card, he's done playing. Fail one and no matter what your GPA, you don't play and can't practice for 20 days if the new policy flies.

Under the current policy, there is a 15-day probation period during which the athletes can practice but can't play in games until they havepulled their grades up to standard.

What the school board members don't realize is that being able to participate in practice and being around the coach and team lTC serve as motivation. Take the struggling athlete out of that environment and you are likely to lose him.

Here's hoping the school board votes with intelligence and understanding tonight.

On the judicial matter, Wesley Green, a senior running back at High Point, has used up his eligibility under MPSSAA rules. Prince George's County, not known for going out of its way to monitor and control athletic transfers, cleared Green to play.

Athletes have four years of eligibility in high school under MPSSAA guidelines, not five years to play four as in college.

The young man has an attorney who got a court injunction that allowed his client to play the last two weeks and now is seeking a temporary injunction that would allow him to complete the season.

MPSSAA Executive Secretary Ned Sparks initially ruled that Green was ineligible in the season-opener and awarded Severna Park a win, putting the Falcons back in the playoff hunt at 5-2, including last Friday's 48-19 loss to North County. With High Point as a blemish on its record, Severna Park would now be 4-3 and pretty much out of the playoff picture.

If Green receives the injunction Friday, Sparks and the MPSSAA have a serious problem.

"We're not sure what it will lead to, but it comes down to whether or not the State Board of Education has a right to to interpret their own rules," Sparks said. "And we've been interpreting it this way for 20 years."

MPSSAA guidelines were meant to govern fair play and not to be challenged in court. With all the other athletic problems, we don't need court injunctions to confuse the system.

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