April 2017 - School Start Times. More school districts are addressing the issue of later school start times. Science argues that students circadian rhythms need a later start time. But, the schools that raise this issue often bump up against athletic releases. See How School Start Times Affect High-School Athletics, reported by Alex Putterman, The Atlantic.com, April 12, 2017.
June 2008 - 'No F' Policies: The Debate Rages On. A long-time ago a 'No F' policy in athletics meant that if you have any 'F's on your report card you're scholastically ineligible and can't participate on a sports team. We saw this in Los Angeles high school sports years ago until L.A. dropped its 'No F' policy in 1990. See 'No F' Policy for Student Activities Dropped In L.A., Education Week, Jan. 31, 1990. The arguments over these athletic 'No F' policies are incapable of being resolved. On the one hand, we don't want to coddle a group of students who often look like they're blowing off school. On the other hand, if we're too harsh we could drive away people who may only come to school because of sports. At a more sophisticated level, the arguments delve into whether we're encouraging athletes to take gut courses so they can ensure that they won't get an 'F.' In short, do "No F' policies create a self fulfilling prophecy under which we assume the ignorance of the athlete, and then creative incentives for the athlete to take courses that will ensure that he/she will be less intellectually challenged than his/her peers? These arguments are very well set out inMiddle School Officials Divided over 'No F' Policy by Annie McCallum, Lynchburg News Advance, June 21, 2008. As this article makes clear, the dispute arises from trying to make athletes meet academic standards versus the unintended consequences of athletes either losing motivation to go to school or taking courses with little academic merit.
Today, there's a new wave of 'No F' policies. Unlike the athletic 'No F's of the past, these modern 'No F's are school administrators' policies of not giving Fs. That's right, in modern academia a 'No F' is a refusal to give the 'F' not a restriction on those who get one. The poster boy for this new trend is Grand Rapids, MI Superintendent Charles Taylor and his "Success Only Option" program. Now, when I was young and an adult said success was your only option, it was a threat. That's not the case here. Superintendent Taylor's program is benign. If you fail, your grade is held in abeyance until you work it off. Your report is marked 'H' to indicate this. Does it work? I don't know; the jury's still out, but people have intense reactions to this new-thought. See Grand Rapids High School Students Cannot Get Failing Grade Under New Policy, Grand Rapids Press, December 3, 2008; and Nothing Succeeds Quite Like Failure by James Fussell, Kansas City Star (reprinted in Sauk Valley Newspapers , March 17, 2009).
San Francisco, CA - June 7, 2008 - Bridgemont Suspended For One Year: CCS Takes Unprecedented Action After Small School Fails To Follow Eligibility Rules by Will Reisman, San Francisco Examiner page 29. San Francisco's Bridgemont High School (and no I do not govern this school, I only govern San Francisco's public schools) played ineligible players, and committed numerous other violations including playing students who didn't attend the school (the article mentions one of these players) and having inadequately prepared physical forms.
September 6, 2016 - Utah - Legislature Threatens To Override Utah High School Activities Association's Transfer Rules. See Proposed Rules Changes Could Drastically Alter Utah High School Sports reported by Amy Donaldson, Deseret News. Utah joins Florida, Louisiana and a number of other States that have seen their legislatures threaten to loosen transfer rules. The modern student and parent don't like to hear no. These families are finding a friendly voice in State Legislatures as athletic administrators struggle to maintain their eligibility rules. In decades past, legislatures viewed athletic administrators as preventing aggressive schools from taking advantage of athletes, now more and more legislatures view athletic administrators as stopping students from exercising their free choice of schools.
Novel Eligibility Argument Raised In New York Case. See Set Back By Hardship, A Student Athlete Runs Up Against An Age Restriction by Jim Dwyer, New York Times, November 20, 2014. What's novel, you ask? In New York (and many other places), an athlete’s eligibility is based on when their birthdays fall in relation to a specific date, not the age at which they compete. Here, a student who violated the age-rule is arguing that the city “treats students in winter and spring sports differently, without there being any difference in safety and fair competition to justify the differential treatment.” In other words, a student who misses the cut-off date can't compete when he is say two months over the age when the cut off applies, but a student who makes the cut-off date can compete when he is more than two months over that age. Of course, New York has an argument, too. Lauren Almquist Lively, a lawyer with the city’s Corporation Counsel, argues that the fact that "students’ birthdays fall at different times of year does not invalidate the rule.,”
Mount Pleasant, MI - November 3, 2012 - High School: most of us reminisce about the days that were, in many cases, the best days of our lives. We see adults trying to relive those days through their children - often with harmful results. We see people trying to relive and recapture those days in a number of ways. But, what we seldom see is somebody physically reentering high school in order to do it all over again. Well, 21-year old James Nash did just that, playing football at Mount Pleasant High School in Michigan until he was caught playing under the alias Javier Jones. See Mount Pleasant High School Says Football Player Was 21, CBS Detroit, November 3, 2012; and Mt. Pleasant Student Turns Out To Be 21; Football Team May Have To Forfeit Games by Jim Lahde, The Morning Sun (Isabella County, MI), November 3, 2012.
NCAA Clearinghouse - Behind The Scenes. See ESPN The Magazine's Fortress of Aptitude by Seth Wickersham, February 7, 2011 page 104.. If you ever wondered about the inner workings, the politics, the people, and how any organization can review so many transcripts to determine which freshman can play and which can't, see this story (note - you may have to register with ESPN).
Racine, WI - March 2010 - In many places, an athletic is ineligible if they cut class on game-day. This is a pretty logical rule. After all, if you didn't go to school, why should you be allowed to show up after school to play in the big game? Monitoring this is a huge challenge, though. Teachers who coach have their own classes to run. Walk-on coaches aren't around to monitor. There are a lot of schools that find out about this problem after the absent student has already played. This leads to forfeits and bad feelings all the way around. Mike Podoll asks the key question: who is accountable? See Passing The Buck On Eligibility Issues: Who Is Ultimately Responsible For Overseeing Student-Athlete Eligibility by Mike Podoll, Coach and Athletic Director Magazine, April 2010, page 50.
Nevada - February 2010 - Western Sues To Get Forfeits Reversed, Delays State Playofs, Then Loses In First Round. Western High is reflective of a number of trends: First, Western reflects a trend of poor administrative work - some of this is caused by overworked athletic administrators (here, Western played a fifth year player); Second, an unwillingness to accept results (here, Western couldn't accept the forfeits required by their playing an illegal player); Third, Western reflects the trend toward a more litigious society (they went to court on three occasions, here - of course, Western probably views this as standing up for justice - but fighting for your right to cheat ain't justice). Western finally got two of its forfeits reversed, which put them in the playoffs where they promptly lost. There's an old schoolyard saying where a guy misses a free-throw after a disputed foul-call: yes, Western's loss is "cheater's proof." They need to be home. Cheaters don't belong on the court in the first place. For more on the Western saga see Western Files Another Appeal, Basketball Tournament Likely Delayed by Chase Keefer, Las Vegas Sun, Feb. 16, 2010; Appeal Causes High School Basketball Playoffs To Be Delayed by Case Keefer, Las Vegas Sun, Feb. 17, 2010; and Cimarron Dismisses Western, Nevadapreps.com, Feb. 20, 2010.
Transfers - A Hot Topic In Every State. See, Parents, High School Officials At Odds Over Motivation for Athletes' Transfers by Ray Glier, USA Today, November 21, 2006.