5 on Sev. Park boys basketball on academic probation

Students can practice, not play until March 6

February 15, 2002|By Pat O'Malley | Pat O'Malley,SUN STAFF

Report cards came out yesterday in Anne Arundel County's 12 public high schools and while a number of student athletes around the county did not meet academic requirements, the Severna Park boys varsity basketball team seems to have been the hardest hit.

Five players - four of whom are regular or occasional starters - and a team manager did not meet the 2.0 grade-point-average requirement for athletics and all other extracurricular activities, and were placed on academic probation.

Severna Park boys coach Paul Pellicani said he knew that a couple of his players were in trouble, but had no idea about five.

"I was very, very disappointed," said the eighth-year coach, who yesterday called up several JV players. "Clearly, we're better off with them than without them, but we're just going to proceed and move on."

"Oh, yes," answered Pellicani when asked, if his team were to advance to the state semis, would he take the five back? "They're not off the team. They're allowed to practice, not allowed to dress or sit on the bench [during games]."

Two members of the No. 12 Falcons girls basketball team, including one of their top scorers, are ineligible, as is one starter from the boys teams at No. 17 Glen Burnie and No. 18 Southern.

The academic probation period runs 15 school days, at which time student athletes have the opportunity to raise their grades. They are allowed to practice but cannot play in games during the period, which ends March 6.

"All of those ineligible at Severna Park had the opportunity to avoid this, but didn't take advantage of our program," said Colleen Stauffer, who serves as the school's academic advisor.

Not all county schools have an academic advisor, but Severna Park, which is considered one of the county's top academic high schools, does in Stauffer, a retired teacher.

"I don't know what more the coaches, teachers and administration can do, and when I first heard about this, I wanted to blame myself, but I did everything I could," said Stauffer.

Said Pellicani: "If they [students] had availed themselves to our support system that Colleen does such an excellent job with, we would not be in this predicament.

Stauffer regularly monitors about 1,000 students, arranges sessions for tutors each Wednesday, often meets one-on-one with students seeking help and has an open door for parents to meet with her.

"They can talk to me whenever they care to and I encourage the parents to get involved, but some don't," said Stauffer.

Severna Park athletic director Wayne Mook praised Stauffer's dedication and also was dejected over the situation.

"With boys basketball, it's extremely devastating," he said. "I want to say he had 14 kids, and he's losing five. We don't like that at all."

Regular-season basketball schedules end today for the public schools. There are county championships in boys and girls basketball on Tuesday with the playoffs for all the teams starting a week from today.

Any basketball team that lost a player to academic ineligibility yesterday would not get that player back until the state semifinals, which start March 7.

Ineligible wrestlers and indoor track athletes will miss the rest of the season because the final dates on their seasons are March 1-2 (state tournament) and Feb. 19, respectively.

If a student athlete is still not eligible at the end of the probation period, the athlete is declared academically ineligible. The athlete is not allowed to play or practice anymore during the current season and is ineligible for the next season, which starts March 1.

Those in such a dilemma cannot practice or play until report cards are issued on April 26.

"A lot of coaches won't wait that long into a season to get a player back," said Mook. "And if it's someone who is new and not returning to the team, they have little chance of playing that late because they can't even practice until then."

7 Sun staff writer Edward Lee contributed to this article.

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