School officials promised yesterday that changes will be made in academic eligibility rules that could have left some student athletes sitting on the bench for half the spring season.

Coaches began protesting last week after Daniel L. Jett, director of high schools, reminded administrators that students who had failed to earn a 2.0 (C) grade-point average in the winter quarter could not qualify for spring sports until the end of the third marking period, April 10.

Under that timetable, boys lacrosse players could miss six games,or half the season; baseball players, five games of an 18-game season; softball players, four games of an 18-game season.

"Somebody sits over there at the central office and makes up rules and doesn't tell us," said Dan Ross, boys lacrosse coach at Howard High School. "Somebody didn't look at how long the season is."

The problem, said Jett, was that the procedure agreed to by high school principals last year was applied to this year's calendar -- the deadline last year gave students four weeks to bring up their grades and become eligible for competition. But this year's deadline, because of the timing of spring break, would have meant students couldn't have requalified untilsix weeks into the season.

Jett said he plans to change the eligibility date, probably to March 28. But Associate Superintendent JamesR. McGowan said the date has not been decided yet. He said it will depend on how students who have signed up for an "individual plan" to bring up their grades will be affected, although he declined to elaborate.

An individual plan is required of all student athletes who want to regain athletic eligibility after being suspended from sports for low grades. It is available only to students who have less than a2.0 grade-point average, and who have failed no more than one course.

The plan requires students to attend and participate in classes,do their homework and obey school rules. Parents must agree to monitor the student's performance and see that he completes assignments.

Jett said high school principals agreed last year to change the date that students are allowed to regain eligibility for spring sports to bring the spring season closer in line with similar schedules for the fall and winter seasons.

For fall and winter sports, student athletes whose grades have fallen below a 2.0 average and who elect an individual plan have their grades calculated on the date proficiency-deficiency notices are issued, about four weeks into the fall season and one week into the winter season.

The date wouldn't work for spring sports because proficiency-deficiency notices are issued at the end of February, before the spring season even begins, Jett said. He said the principals agreed on the end of the third marking period, which in spring 1990 fell at the end of March.

Variations in the calendar -- changes in the dates of Easter and spring vacation -- will probably require annual adjustments in the eligibility dates for spring sports, Jett said. "We may need to take another look at changing the policy," he said.

Some coaches said they would like to see even more radical changes in the policy governing academic eligibility.

"My biggest concern is whether the intent of the plan is for studentathletes to become eligible or whether the intent is for student athletes to lose time," said Bob Maxey, athletic director and baseball coach at Hammond HighSchool.

If the intent is to make students eligible, Maxey suggested keeping the eligibility date March 1, the startof the spring sports season, and have students who opt for individual plans not miss any spring games.

If the intent is to have student athletes lose time when their grades fall below a 2.0 average, he suggested keeping them off the floor or court for a percentage of the season, regardless of whether it's football, basketball or track season.

Coach Ross said he would like to see the individual plan and its accompanying paperwork scrapped. "I'd rather have one eligibility rule -- either a kid's eligible or he's not," Ross said, adding that he would like to see eligibility based on a 1.6 grade-point average, the figure used by the National Collegiate Athletic Association.

School Board Chairman Deborah D. Kendig said the intent was "to have adults reach out to kids whose grades have dropped below 2.0" and helpthe students raise their grades.

Kendig said she was disappointedby results of a recent survey that indicated students are receiving forms to fill out for academic plans, but not getting the counseling she hoped would go with the plan option

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