Students’ classroom performance determines their athletic eligibilityWritten by Michael Stainbrook | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Weighing in at 8 pounds and standing 3 inches tall, a high-school chemistry book can pack a punch greater than any six-foot, 200-pound linebacker.
Like an injury, poor grades can sideline a student athlete for weeks and requires a labor-intensive process to get a student ready to retake the field. Avoiding such problems requires prioritization.
“They’re students before they’re athletes; they have to toe the line in the classroom before they can participate in extracurriculars,” said Tim Erickson, athletic director for Ottawa Hills High School.
The Ohio High School Athletic Association (OHSAA) reinforces this notion through academic performance guidelines that must be met before students can add “athlete” to their resume. OHSAA requires students to pass five one-credit courses in the previous grading period to maintain eligibility.
The last term of the 2009-10 school year will be used to determine eligibility this fall. Students will become eligible again on the fifth day of the next grading period if the failures have been corrected.
Students must be cautious, though, as not all classes are one-credit courses.
“Some classes are worth more than others,” said Chuck Cox, athletic director at Rossford High School. “A phys ed. class that lasts for nine weeks is not the same as an algebra class that lasts the entire year.”
In addition to OHSAA standards, local school districts enforce their own set of eligibility guidelines. Most schools Toledo Free Press contacted had a minimum GPA of 1.5 for eligibility while several drew a line at 1.7.
Toledo and Springfield Public Schools (TPS) have slightly lower parameters for eligibility, but require students to attend study sessions when their GPA approaches the cutoff mark. TPS students with a GPA between 1.0 and 1.7 must attend a half-hour study table with a teacher or tutor three times a week. Students with an average between 1.0 and 1.5 may play, but are placed on academic probation, which is only allowed once during a student’s time in high school.
“We strongly suggest that freshmen and sophomores do not use that academic probation,” said Terry Reeves, athletic director at Bowsher High School.
Reeves said upperclassmen who struggle in a class or two might miss valuable playing time if their probationary period is exhausted earlier in high school.
At Springfield, students must attend two study tables a week if their GPA falls between 1.25 and 1.5.
St. John’s Jesuit and Rossford high schools do not allow students to participate if they are failing more than one class, no matter how many classes they are taking.
Many districts also have drug and alcohol use policies with implications for athletic eligibility.
Most have a three-strike policy with more severe consequences when students repeat the offense.
Sylvania Public Schools employs a four-strike policy, where students lose eligibility for 20 percent of athletic contests upon their first offense and the entire season after their second, provided they undergo a drug and alcohol assessment program each time. Students lose a year’s eligibility after their third infraction and are prohibited from participating when the fourth offense is discovered.
Whitmer and Perrysburg high schools allow students one self-referral for substance abuse.
“Our policy is all about education. We don’t want to throw them out on the street. We want to help them,” said Ray Pohlman, athletic director at Perrysburg High School, which also does random drug testing among athletes.
Some area high schools also apply their policies to nonathletic extracurricular activities as well.
Athletic directors agree that no policy is capable of addressing every situation perfectly.
“There’s always something that comes up, a situation that’s kind of a gray area,” said Chris Irwin, Northview High School athletic director.
He said OHSAA presents changes to its guidelines to athletic directors across the state every year.
The variety of scheduling formats among school districts makes statewide conformity difficult, Irwin said.
For example, schools operating on a block schedule offer four classes per term, while others allow for as many as eight or nine.
“We use those OHSAA standards as kind of our warning track,” said Bill Axe, athletic director at Central Catholic High School. “The best way to address this is in a positive way, not a negative way.”