The new, stricter academic and attendance eligibility policy imposed at City College by principal Joseph Wilson had widespread impact on the school's winter teams this week and has some Knights coaches wondering about the athletic program's future.
The boys basketball team did not have enough eligible players remaining to continue its season. After winning three straight Class 2A North region championships, the Knights will not be able to compete at the state tournament, and they finish with a 9-13 record. The JV also had to forfeit its last game.
Of 28 City College athletes declared academically ineligible after report cards were issued last Friday, 27 would be eligible at any other Baltimore City public school, said City athletic director George Petrides.
More than 200 of City's 1,100 students were declared academically ineligible to participate in any extracurricular activity, including athletics, said Petrides.
The academic eligibility standard, as imposed by Wilson, requires that City students maintain at least a 70 average overall and at least a 60 in three of four courses to participate in extracurricular activities. The attendance policy requires that students have no more than four unexcused absences or 14 unexcused instances of tardiness per semester.
Petrides, several City coaches, and Bob Wade, coordinator of athletics for city schools, said they don't disagree with the new academic standards, but they do object to the timing.
"No teacher being true to their profession could fight with raising the bar for their kids," said Bill Walker, City College history teacher and baseball coach. "But I feel that the kids haven't been given ample opportunity to meet that standard. There was no clear-cut timetable as to when this would be instituted. For the rug to be pulled out from under them without much advance notice seems a bit unfair."
Boys basketball was not the only City team affected by the new academic standards.
The swimming team, which has won two straight city boys crowns, lost three athletes. Coach Gloria Green said her team will not have the depth to challenge for another title in today's citywide meet.
One indoor-track athlete who had the potential to win a regional title, as well as five other team members, were ruled ineligible. The wrestling team lost two members but no starters. Girls basketball did not lose anyone.
"The only people affected [yesterday] are athletes, because it's the end of winter sports," said Green. "My sport's over [today]. You would at least think it could wait until we go into spring sports."
Petrides said he did not know how the policy would affect spring programs. Walker and girls lacrosse coach P. J. Kesmodel said they didn't expect to lose more than one player each.
Kesmodel, however, expressed concern about the attendance policy. Students' attendance records will be reviewed every two weeks, meaning more students could become ineligible every two weeks. They would not be able to return until the next semester.
"Most of these kids ride buses," said Kesmodel, a guidance counselor at Mount Hebron High in Howard County. "It's not the same thing as riding the bus from five miles away. Sometimes they get stuck in traffic, and the kid left in plenty of time, but the bus didn't show up. There should be some flexibility on this lateness thing."
One City coach said students interested in playing sports might not want to attend City College, opting for another school.
"This could cause a tremendous hardship to their athletic program," said Wade. "They have no more than 300 boys at that school, and they have to depend on them to play two or three sports to supplement their athletic program."
Walker also said that there is not widespread support among the City College faculty for Wilson's policy. He said that while about 30 City teachers signed a letter supporting Wilson's plan, more than half of the faculty members, including himself, did not sign.