Iowa sports kids making the grade

Thursday, March 28, 2002

An academic eligibility proposal recently put before the Iowa Board of Education is creating quite a stir, and could bench hundreds of athletes throughout the state.

The proposition would require that athletes, along with students involved in speech and music, have a "C" average or pass all of their classes.

When the proposal was initially made public in January, more than 120 letters and e-mails were received from school superintendents, teachers and coaches opposing the changes.

This is 2002. Isn't it just a bit hypocritical to say that schools are a place of higher achievement and higher learning, but then allow athletes to participate with classroom scores of D's and F's?

Currently, only a D- is required for an athlete to be eligible, and that grade can be earned by simply showing up and sleeping through class. This I know. It hasn't been that long since I graduated. It's embarrassing that schools nationwide are purposely "dummying" students down in order to fill up a trophy case.

School should be an institution created for learning and enrichment. If in the process, a student learns the art of basketball or football, then kudos to the instructors. The priorities can say a lot about our school systems.

Early estimates of the proposal show that one-third of the freshman class at Des Moines North would be ineligible. Currently, Iowa is among 19 states that require student athletes to pass four classes to be deemed eligible to participate.

Twenty-four states have stricter eligibility rules. Eight require student athletes maintain a "C" average.

In fact, several Iowa school districts already have eligibility standards that are stricter than the state's rule including Dunkerton, which requires students to have 2.0 grade point average. Other school districts including Andrew, Colo-Nesco, South Hamilton and Rockwell City-Lytton require athletes to pass all of their classes.

One Des Moines principal recently said of the proposal, "Athletics is the hook to get kids engaged academically."

Where are our priorities?

It is common knowledge that students in numerous school activities, not just athletics, are handed a passing grade on a platter without even cracking a book. It is all done for the "good of the team," but what about the good of the student?

In a day and time when schools are promoting higher learning via ICN courses, college fairs and university course offerings, is it really too much to ask that a student has a grade point average above 1.6?

Five, 10, 15 years from now, what will be more important and have more value, the number of tackles made during a homecoming game, or learning the art of balancing a checkbook, proper English, and even one's own anatomy.

True, the proposal, which could be passed by the board in April, could bench hundreds of athletes throughout the state. But let that be a learning experience for these students in hard work and the value of an education.

Kelli Linn is a sports editor at the Spencer Daily Reporter.