Proposition 48, the new bylaw significantly strengthening requirements for freshman athletic eligibility in Division I and I-AA, has yet to generate much controversy among local high school athletic officials, despite the nationwide furor since its passage by the NCAA in January.
Most of the area's jurisdictions surpass the national SAT average of 893, led by Fairfax County's total of 964, with only the District's 697 falling below Proposition 48's mandated 700 minimum. Those averages are for all students, not just athletes.
According to Bill Savage, Fairfax County coordinator of athletics, "You hear about kids who used up four years of college eligibility and can't read; something had to be done. If you set standards, kids will meet them."
Friendly's basketball coach, Roy Henderson, agrees. "Now, a kid will know in ninth grade that he will have to take certain courses and perform at a certain level (2.0 average in academic courses) instead of only busting their butts in their last year to get the 2.0."
Counselor Bill Graves has been at Friendly for 13 years, and he sees the 700 standard as hypocrisy on the colleges' part. "We're kidding ourselves if we believe the colleges are taking kids for academic reasons. We have an SAT prep class, but for kids in our deficiency program, there's not a lot we can do for them by the time they get to high school. They'll pass and be ready for basketweaving, but they won't be ready for a decent major. There'll be difficulties meeting these standards. Kids will fall through the cracks, especially from inner-city schools."
In District schools, with a majority of minority students, Proposition 48 could have a dramatic effect. According to the Educational Testing Service, which administers SATs, 51 percent of black males and 60 percent of black females nationally score below 700. The reason frequently cited is inherent bias in standardized tests.
Former Eastern football coach Earl Richardson, now an administrator at Theodore Roosevelt, said, "I've always stated that there should be stricter standards. You should have to have a C average on the high school level to stay eligible. However, the SAT tests exposure to test-taking and culture. The more you have, the higher you score, and kids in the inner city don't get as much. Seven hundred is high for the minority student."
Otto Jordan, supervising director of athletics for D.C. schools, said, "I don't know if removing the SAT provision would win me over. Some of our students might not meet the curriculum requirements. I think we should look at this very carefully before it goes into effect."
At Churchill in Potomac, Football Coach Fred Shepherd makes his players study instead of suiting up during gym class. Churchill also has smaller classes, with two teachers along with the usual tutoring and counseling for those needing extra help.
John Youngblood, incoming curriculum specialist for health, physical education and athletics in Arlington County, said, "Proposition 48 . . . would help us on the high school level by making the students more serious (about their school work)."
Nevertheless, Jordan is concerned about some students giving up on school if they are unable to play. "Athletics brings kids to school," he said. "Once they're here, we can help them. There should be standards, but we should make sure the criteria are fair. We may miss some people who could contribute both on the athletic field and in society because they didn't meet some arbitrary standard."
T.C. Williams Basketball Coach Mike Hynson thinks that Proposition 48's effects will be blunted because "grades will be inflated. Teachers will take the new rules into consideration. Our athletes have to go to class, which cures a lot of the problems. Kids don't want to believe they're not ready for Division I academically, but I think like in the '50s and '60s, you'll see a lot more kids (preparing for Division I) in the junior colleges."