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Listen up high school freshmen and middle-school students with aspirations of playing Division I or II athletics!

The National Collegiate Athletic Association has raised the academic requirements to accept a scholarship and be eligible to play as a college freshman. The standard goes into effect Aug. 1, 1995, which means it affects YOU.

Division III schools do not give athletic scholarships but do give financial aid based on need. Many schools in all three divisions have their own academic requirements, which are sometimes higher than that of the NCAA.

It's important to note that the requirement for you to play high school sports in Anne Arundel County, a 1.6 grade-point average, is not even close to the new 2.5 standard set down this week at the 86th NCAA convention in Anaheim, Calif.

The ongoing question is, Should Anne Arundel consider again raising its academic requirement? Is it the school system's job to prepare students to becomecollege athletes or to simply give students the opportunity to graduate?

The new regulations for student-athletes to compete as freshmen passed, 279-72, and basically they are: A student must take at least 13 core subjects (up from 11) and maintain a 2.5 GPA in them.

With a 2.5 a student need only score a 700 on the SAT or 17 on the ACT.

In order to offer an option to those who may have low grades in the required core courses, the NCAA has come up with Proposal 16, a sliding scale. It allows those who can't get a 2.5 to qualify with a 2.0 if they score 900 or better on their SAT or 21 on the ACT.

Coresubjects are math, English, social studies, science and language. Your grade-point average in the core courses is all that counts, not what you got in physical education, electives, fine and practical arts.

What some parents and students might not realize is that the county 1.6 athletic requirement is the GPA for all subjects, not just core. In other words, you can skate by taking gravy courses to maintain a 1.6 to play, but you might as well forget college.

Anne Arundel County requires all students to accumulate a minimum 12 core credits to qualify for graduation: English (four), social studies and math (three each) and science (two). You need a minimum 22 total credits (two above the state requirement) to graduate in Anne Arundel.

If a student can't get a 1.6 on the scale of 4.0 while taking the minimum requirements, he definitely shouldn't be playing high school sports.

The county refers to a 1.6 as a "C" and it is according to its grading system, but not to some of us. Numerically the county calls an "A" a 4, but the grade equivalent average for an A is 3.6 to 4.0.

Itfollows like this: B equals 3 numerically but 2.6 to 3.5 average; C equals 2 numerically but 1.6 to 2.5 average; and D equals 1 numerically but 0.6 to 1.5 average.

With academic standards being lifted all around us, should the county raise its 1.6 GPA minimum?

Ken Nichols, administrative assistant to the superintendent, says it should, as does Board of Education member Tom Twombly of Pasadena.

"I knowTwombly wants to see it raised and is pushing for it, and I tend to agree," said Nichols, a former principal at Arundel and Annapolis high schools who has a reputation of being very supportive of high school sports.

"I don't think it would hurt for us to use a 2.0. When we went from the 0.6 (in 1986) to the 1.6, the kids complied with the new standards. I don't know of any kid who played athletics who was hurt by the 1.6."

It's Nichols' belief and the feeling of many others from parents to coaches to teachers that, in his words, "the kids will do what you give them. They amaze themselves when they really want to do something."

Twombly has been lobbying for an increase since last year. His idea would be to use a graduating step procedure toget to a 2.0 so as not to hit the students with the whole thing at once.

For instance, the Board of Education could go to a 1.7, then a 1.8 and so on up to the 2.0 by the fourth year.

Recently Twomblyhas been gathering the opinions of students to see what they think about the 1.6 minimum, and has been getting a lot of feedback in favorof lifting it to a 2.0.

Last year, Donna digrazia, director of staff relations, reviewed the Board of Education's entire policy manual, including the 1.6 GPA. It was determined by her committee that the 1.6 should stand, and at the moment, there is nothing on the horizon to study it again.

Rick Wiles, the interim county coordinator of physical education, says there are no current committees to change or discuss the 1.6 GPA.

That could change if Twombly continues his pursuit, but is liftingthe 1.6 to a 2.0 the right thing to do?

Some coaches don't think it is if you merely require a 2.0 in all courses and not just in the core courses.

Those same coaches point to the student who should be playing high school sports for the social and emotional advantages but who can't meet the requirements. In a lot of cases, it's not from a lack of effort but simply the inability to handle certain core courses, such as algebra, geometry and trigonometry.

Unfortunately for them, taking one year each of algebra and geometry is a necessity to college eligibility, but because they can't handle such courses should they be penalized in high school?

An extraordinary example of it not being a lack of effort is the case of former Annapolis high school star basketball player Delmore Howard. Howard, a 1991 grad, is a young man with his priorities in order who had Division I scholarship offers, but couldn't take them because he scored a 17 on his ACT.

The ACT requirement was 18 last year. Now it's 17. Howard was a year too early in terms of scholarships and is now at Division III Kean College in New Jersey.

There is the argument that playing on a high school sports team is all the majority of students will ever get to do, and why should they be deprived of that teamexperience because they can't make a 2.0 GPA?

Should all studentssimply strive to do the best they can and, if it is determined they are giving the effort, should be allowed to participate in high school sports no matter what their grades?

The one thing Nichols and most coaches agree on is that more could be done at the elementary and middle school levels and by the parents.

"I've seen it happen too many times where great athletes get to the high school level but havemissed the opportunity to get their academic act together (in the lower grades)," said Nichols.

Unfortunately what happens then is that some athletes and parents want to blame the system and the coaches.Too often, parents think of the high school football or basketball coach as a college coach who handles and monitors players academicallywith a staff of four assistants and a secretary.

To expect a highschool coach to be a coach, guidance counselor and academic adviser is unfair.

Most of our coaches help every way humanly possible, but they can't be expected to do it all.

The bottom line is that theparent, who has maybe one or two kids to be concerned with, should stop asking the coach to worry about 12 basketball players or 50 football players.

What are you doing as a parent, and is your kid doinghis share? Those are the important questions.

The parent and student-athlete have to accept the responsibility first and foremost.

NCAA Executive Director Dick Schultz was quoted about the new standards as saying, "This should be an incentive for high school students to gear up."

It starts in the home, folks, and if you want to see your youngster play college sports, you'd better get started now.

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