If you've been wondering about whatever happened to that proposed athletic transfer rule, let me tell you that it could come to pass by the 1991-1992 school year.

The rule would require a student-athlete to sit out a year if he or she transferred specifically for sports.

The Board of Education Policy Manual has been under review for about a year -- that task charged to Dr. Donna diGrazia, assistant to the superintendent -- and the athletic transfer rule falls under the final chapter on student guidelines. That is Chapter 9 and diGrazia has just started it.

"The better part of the job is over because we've gotten through the first eight chapters and have just started nine," said diGrazia, who also handles negotiations with four school system unions.

"We expect to be finished with our review of the entire manual within the next several months and to have the entire nine chapters voted on as a package and to be ready for the start of the 1991-1992 school year."

County coordinator of physical education Paul Rusko has been pushing for an athletic transfer rule for years, and after a few controversies in the last couple of years, he feels its implementation is near.

"Summer a year ago, I felt it was pretty close, and then Dr. diGrazia was given the responsibility of reviewing the entire policy manual, which includes our proposal."

Rusko's proposal was made and seconded by Dr. Larry L. Lorton, superintendent of schools, and most of the county coaches and athletic directors. It basically recommends a one-year loss of eligibility for student-athletes who transfer within the county public high school system.

It was back in the winter of 1988 that a committee of Rusko, two principals, two athletic directors, two coaches, two administrators, a guidance counselor, a student and Huntley Cross, then special assistant to the superintendent and now a Jones Cable TV star, met to study an athletic transfer rule.

By mid-April of 1989 that committee made the one-year loss of eligibility recommendation with related guidelines that would discourage athletic transfers. Lorton, who is on record as being against athletic transfers, supports the proposal.

However, despite its overwhelming approval by the coaching community, it has been dormant since April 1989. But it was that summer of 1989 that diGrazia, who had spent 12 years in Frederick County as director of personnel and staff development, was charged with revising and updating the policy manual.

"It's something that had to be done for the last five or six years, and now we are doing it with your item in that last chapter," said diGrazia.

In late September 1988, Lorton, in a directive to county high school principals, encouraged coaches and staffers to take an active role in discouraging athletic transfers.

"A passive role, or silence, condones such behavior," Lorton told his principals.

The superintendent ordered the formation of a committee to review the transfer policy. Lorton re-emphasized the denial of transfers unless for legitimate reasons, and advised his principals, "When you learn that the requesting student is an athlete, the principal will notify immediately the coordinator of physical education (Paul Rusko) for follow-up."

Lorton also stressed that "the alleged assumption by some athletes/parents that age 18 carries with it a level of emancipation that obviates board policy and regulations is not so."

The superintendent made it clear that while he was in charge the policy regulations under "Age/Marriage Conditions" would require that the individual situation be thoroughly scrutinized and that such transfers would not be "automatically approved."

As a result, transfers have been more thoroughly investigated for the betterment of the high school athletic program.

"What we hope will be approved is that if a youngster who transfers and is an athlete, he or she will sit for one year," said Rusko. "But that student-athlete will have the opportunity for an appeal to show good cause or reason why they should be allowed to play (upon transfer)."

Let's face it, most athletic transfers are just that, but in some instances there are valid and just reasons.

I would hope that approval of the new one-year loss of eligibility policy, and it has a great chance of going into effect by next year, primarily will discourage the pursuit of misplaced values, encourage loyalty and show by thorough investigation that a particular transfer is valid and ethical beyond all doubt.

Once the policy manual review is completed by diGrazia, the board will work on it in workshops and suggest revisions. A vote by the board for action will take place followed by a vote on the whole package -- all nine chapters with revisions.

On the subject of athletics, diGrazia keeps close contact with Rusko, his office and "people who know a certain situation and have been involved in that situation."

In other words, diGrazia's revisions are only recommended after appropriate input.

What's also interesting to note is that diGrazia said the current grade-point average of 1.60 to participate in athletics and extracurricular activities will be reviewed as well.

There are many of us who feel the 1.60, which is basically a D-plus more so than a D-minus on a scale of 4.0, is much too low when you consider that Division I schools and many other universities require a 2.00 to participate in athletics.

I can't understand how we are preparing or encouraging a student-athlete to do well in college when we give him or her a lower standard in high school. If national regulations say a 2.0 is the rule, then how can the county justify a 1.6?

Do we justify it in order to keep the athletic programs strong? Aren't we actually encouraging mediocrity with our priorities out of order?

In relation to the GPA, diGrazia also said the current loophole in this required-to-play GPA business also will be scrutinized by the review committee. That loophole exists in football and soccer and other fall sports where those student-athletes basically have it made in the shade.

Fall sports participants don't have to crack a book if they don't want to because report cards don't come out until Nov. 21. Really, there is no pressure to maintain a 1.6 GPA unless you happen to play a winter sport.

Actually the coaches for winter sports, whose official starting date is Nov. 15, have to sweat out report cards twice during their season, Nov. 21 and again on Feb. 12. And, of course, that last one carries over to the spring sports, which commence March 1.

The only real worry for football and other fall sports athletes is end of the school year grades. Those GPAs carry over into the next school year.

"But those kids do have the opportunity to attend summer school and make up the work," said Rusko. "I know some winter coaches cry about the situation, but I think it's too bad that we become so parochial and not just realize that's the way it is.

"The only way we could do something about it is to write special rules for the fall athletes."

That's exactly what needs to be done, and that's coming from a dad who has a high school freshman playing JV football, and who expects his son to maintain a 2.0, not a 1.6, or he's not going to play.

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