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Every phone call this week to the 24-hour Sportsline in response to Sunday's Sidelines column "County Players need help in scholarship sweepstakes" expressed the obvious need for parents and academic counselors to be more involved.

The calls expressed a prevalent attitude that more emphasis on academics is needed, and many questioned the county's D-plus student-athlete grade-point average requirement of 1.67.

"(Prince George's County) raised their grade-point average to play sports to 2.0, so why can't we catch up with everybody else?" asked South River assistant boys basketball coach Jack Jordan. "Since Prince George's put in the 2.0, there has been no drop-off in the talentthey put out."

And Jordan is a coach and parent who practices what he teaches. He has one daughter who graduated from college, and another daughter, Jill, who was a member of the Anne Arundel County SunAll-County Academic Athletic Team last year, is at Anne Arundel Community College.

Jill started in three sports at South River High -- volleyball, basketball and softball -- while maintaining a 3.80 GPA. She did so because her dad, a graduate of St. John's High in Washington, demanded academic attention first.

Toni Sheppard, whose sonEric is a student-athlete at Old Mill,cited the importance of parental involvement.

"We discussed all the points in the column in ourhouse Sunday, because things in the column were things we've been trying to tell our kids for a long time," said Sheppard. "I hope a lot of kids read it, because I'm sure it will help them to improve in academics.

"Until these kids get that in their heads, they're not going to go anywhere, no Division I schools. And the county needs to uptheir grade-point average to the 2.0 to force the kids to try a little harder."

That last point is an excellent one, and many of us who believe that the 2.0 should be the requirement to play athletics or participate in extracurricular activities.

Annapolis football coach Roy Brown said he is not sure raising the GPA to a 2.0 would increase academic excellence and open more doors for college opportunities, unless that 2.0 was required in the CORE subjects (math, English, science, social studies and foreign language) and did not include gravy classes like gym, etc.

But as Brown said, "I think whatever you make the requirement, those who want to play bad enough will get it."

That's why we should raise it to a solid "C" and not this C-minus bull as the county likes to call its 1.67 when it is actually aD-plus.

With the 2.0 the bottom line for admission to a DivisionI school and the University of Maryland,

Atlantic Coast Conference schools and others having even higher qualifications, it is imperativefor a 2.0 to be established in Anne Arundel.

Maryland and ACC schools require a 2.30 while Division I-AA Towson State asks for a 2.5 and 800 on the Scholastic Aptitude Test. The National Collegiate Athletic Association requires a 700 or more on the SAT and 15 on the ACT for admission to Division I colleges.

That's not too much to ask when you get 500 points for signing your name twice. And 700 on the 1600 maximum total for the SAT is only about 45 percent.

Just thisweek, University of Maryland assistant women's basketball coach Bo Pearman visited Arundel High to see the Wildcats' Donna Parker play. The 5-foot-9 senior is not only an outstanding player, but an outstanding student as well.

"Just what you wrote about is what Donna hasdone to attract a college like Maryland to see her play," said Arundel athletic director Bernie Walter. "They came to see Donna because she easily meets all the academic requirements, which is the top priority, and she can play."

If you read the scholarship lists for college football published in the local newspapers recently and saw schools like Baltimore Polytechnic Institute, Gilman and DeMatha more than once, you might have wondered why. Wonder no more. Those schools send kids to Division I schools because of their impeccable academic reputations.

It's seldom that a college recruiter wastes his time looking for prospects at those schools, because first and foremost those kids are college material, will be admitted and stay in school.

Anne Arundel should have that kind of reputation, because I know from experience that the public school system stacks up with most others, but doesn't get the credit it's due. Why?

The answer is simplein terms of student athletes -- that 1.67 D-plus taints the county'sreputation.

I have a good feeling that the Board of Education will go to the 2.0 in the near future, possibly by the start of next year. School board members, such as Tom Twombly, are in favor of lifting the 1.67 to a 2.00, and it's gaining momentum.

However, if the 2.00 doesn't receive the necessary support by next year, Twombly's compromise idea would be to do it on a gradual basis. It would start this fall with a 1.70, going to a 1.80 the second year, 1.90 the third and by the fourth year it would be a 2.00.

It's my opinion that if put to vote by county parents, the 2.00 would be the overwhelming choice, but whether it happens or not, remember one important thing --parents have the right to make their own rules with kids.

If we tell our own individual student-athletes to forget that 1.67 and thatthey have to have a 2.00 to play, we won't be sorry down the road. Establishing your own standards under your own roof is your right, so do it.

It's interesting to note that one of the feature articles in Sports Illustrated this week is on a schoolboy quarterback from Colorado named Justin Armour, who is headed for Stanford University after being wooed by most of the nation's top universities. Not only is this kid a superb football and basketball player, but he is a 4.0 student.

We have kids like that right here in Anne Arundel, as evidenced by the credentials of those who make the Anne Arundel County SunAcademic-Athletic Team each year. Maybe not with the athletic talentof an Armour, but certainly with the ability to combine the rare qualities of academic and athletic excellence.

I wonder though, how many Armour-types have passed through because they were not pushed academically. Not so long ago, the county's GPA qualification for athletes was an embarrassing 0.66. Yes, 0.66, until it was upped it to 1.67 a couple of years ago.

If we emphasize academic excellence by requiring that 2.0 and setting other standards, we, too, can have the Justin Armours of the world.

But we have to ask ourselves as parents, coaches and educators: Do we make academics the priority it should be?


Moving to those who have their priorities in order -- the candidates for the Anne Arundel County Sun Academic-Athletic Team -- let me answer a couple of questions called into the 24-Hour Sportsline.

Yes, the application ballot we print frequently on these pages must be included with your resume. The ballot must have a parent's or guardian's signature.

Neatness and innovativeness also are welcomed.

Student-athletes who do not attend an Anne Arundel County high school, but reside in the county and attend out-of-county highschools, are eligible.

Don't forget to submit your application as soon as possible, the earlier the better. The deadline for enteringis Friday, March 15.

Any other questions, please feel free to call me on the 24-Hour Sportsline, 647-2499 any time.

Let's get behind this and for the ninth straight year honor the county's top 12 boys and top 12 girls who send out a positive message about the county'sstudent-athletes.

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