Is no pass-no play a good idea? In the past few years, academic requirements for athletic eligibility have been a hotly debated issue, with the statewide Texas rule -- where high school athletes must receive passing grades -- getting the most attention.

In the Montgomery County public schools, the academic eligibility rule is not new, and hasn't been for two decades: "A student who has a failing grade in more than one subject at the end of a marking period shall automatically be ineligible during the next marking period to participate in any athletic contests or to participate in or attend any practices."

Beyond this, participation in sports practices and contests is linked to attendance.

Perhaps the most important question is not if there should be higher athletic standards for athletes but what the purpose of those higher standards should be. If the rule is solely to prohibit participation of students who do not excel academically, then it is a poor rule.

If, on the other hand, the rule provides an incentive for a student to reach his or her potential in the classroom, on the playing field, on the stage or in student government, then it is a good rule.

It is for this reason that I prefer Montgomery's approach over a school system that institutes a C-average rule for its athletes. This only encourages students to select less rigorous courses.

Grade eligibility is important for another reason: It forces coaches, sponsors, teachers, counselors and administrators to intervene, to help students improve their academic achievement. It requires us to scrutinize interim reports more carefully, offer tutorials and study halls and counseling.

This extra effort, plus a student's motivation to continue participating in an extracurricular activity, only serves to compound the beneficial aspe athletics.