Implications for Research and Resultant Recommendations
High school sports are for some students a fond memory, for other students the golden ticket to the land of opportunity. For most students, it is an extracurricular activity. High school sports has transitioned from a core basis in family values, ethics and participation to big money sponsorships, televised games, recruiters and scholarships. It's no wonder controversy surrounds the ideas of the benefits and drawbacks. And it's no wonder that some are attempting to regulate participation. We will have an opportunity to examine present trends, current issues, data and initiatives surrounding the provision of high school sports. We will survey a sample of a typical Georgia public high school to receive feedback on student values and opinions with regard to athletics, academics, and sources of support and sources of stress. Ultimately we will develop some recommendations to retain the caliber of high school sports and ensure their availability to future student athletes.
CHAPTER ONE: THE PROBLEM
High school athletics programs complement academic progress. Research supports this theory in a number of ways, and points to the importance of high school athletic programs to the social, emotional and physical development of the student. The level of benefit varies subtly by demographic typing. At the core of the debate is whether academics are viewed as part of or outside of the academic curriculum. There are conflicting schools of thought regarding the benefits of athletic programs to students at the high school level. Some contend that the focus on sports is too commercialized, and that funds spent can overshadow the realities of budget cuts and financial realities in other areas of academics, particularly when the focus is on sports as a profession and academic scholarships. Further, these same people feel that athletes can receive preferential treatment, particularly with regard to the college admissions process.
On the flipside, to allay concerns that academics may take a back seat to sports, many high schools and colleges have enacted minimum eligibility standards for participation in high school sports, the most common standard being a minimum G.P.A. Of 2.0. This is a case of the effect of academics on athletics, rather than the converse. Proponents of high school athletics tout the benefits of participation, which they say includes characteristics like lower absenteeism and higher self-esteem. Some point to higher graduation levels and academic scores, but these claims vary by type of school, by sex, and by race and are influenced somewhat by the eligibility requirements imposed by schools.
Since the turn of the century high school athletics have been associated with contributions to students' development, in terms of instilling self-discipline, ethics, a sense of team play, courage, leadership and good citizenship. In recent years the perception has shifted from fundamental values to entertainment and commercial values. High school sports has entered the mainstream, the world of national television exposure and the world of big money contracts in professional sports. This increased exposure has led to legislative initiatives aimed at addressing issues surrounding school athletics. In 1972, for instance, Title IX legislation increased sports opportunities for all students. (Sisley, 1985) These changes have brought widespread debate over the place of high school sports in schools, the relationship between sports and academics, the benefit of sport, and the cost of athletic programs. (Butterfield, S.A. & Brown Jr., B.R., 1991)
Growing concerns regarding the direction and educational value of high school sport have surfaced among administrators, scholars and parents alike. (Abbott & Buttefield, 1990). Concerns extend to the physical and psychological safety of students as well as the values inherent in the delivery of sports programs. (Martin & Lumsden, 1987) In 1906 the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) was formed to bring uniform standards to the world of sports for universities. The NCAA has grown into a formidable organization, garnering $247 million in revenues during 1997. (Nathan, 1998)
The NCAA suffered criticism when it was disclosed that a professional athlete was ill educated, regardless of their attendance at high profile universities. In order to quell such scandals, the NCAA enforced standards aimed at ensuring fundamental academic achievement across the board for athletes. More recently, however, the NCAA extended its reach to high schools, mandating a core curriculum consisting of 13 core courses in English, social studies, mathematics and science. The NCAA created an Initial-Eligibility Clearinghouse, operated by American College Testing in Iowa City, to standardize the decisions over which courses qualified for the core requirements. (This responsibility for accrediting high school courses traditionally has been handled by each state education agency.) The clearinghouse asked all public and private high schools nationwide to submit a description of each course offered in these disciplines.
The new initiatives set forth by the NCAA has been received with backlash and resentment by high school administrators, who complain that the clearinghouse has made course curriculum development a confusing and cumbersome task. According to a high school principal in Illinois, "We found that one word in a course description, like 'applied,' was enough to get the course rejected." Apparently, the clearinghouse, which was set up to review transcripts of college-bound athletes, erroneously declared thousands of students with acceptable academic records -- including a National Merit Scholar and a school valedictorian -- ineligible for athletic scholarships and ineligible to compete in sports as freshmen. Examples of faux pas conducted by the committee include:
Yale accepted Alison Rosholt, an excellent tennis player, on "early decision" last fall, but it took nine months of phone calls and letters from her highly regarded suburban Minneapolis high school and her parents before the NCAA would let her try out for the team.
The Air Force Academy accepted Chris Rohe, who compiled a 3.97 high school grade point average, high test scores and membership in the National Honor Society, but the NCAA blocked him from playing football during his freshman year because it rejected 1/3 of a required 10th grade English class.
Dan Zien, a suburban Milwaukee student who won honors in track at the Junior Olympics, complied a B. high school average and scored above 1300 on his SAT, was barred from competing in track as a freshman at Indiana University because the NCAA rejected an English course, "Preparation for the 21st Century." His high school noted that the same course had been accepted when submitted by other high schools
Misty Hollingshead, an outstanding volleyball player who graduated with a 3.56 average from North Thurston High School in Olympia, Wash., and was her class president all four years of high school, endured months of anguish when the NCAA targeted the 43 quarter hours of college credit she completed during her senior year in high school under her state's "Running Start" program.
Hollinghead's mother Sandy, an educator, said of her experience: "We were stunned by the rigidity and lack of common sense on the part of the clearinghouse and at their arrogance and unwillingness to give us answers concerning the process they had used in making decisions about our daughter ... It's crazy for an organization to have the power that they do to override and overrule educational statutes set forth by a state legislature and to not really have to answer to anyone for their actions and decisions."
The NCAA decided an acceptable high school social studies course could spend no more than 25% of its time on current or contemporary issues and no more than 25% could be devoted to humanities or criminal justice issues. Parents in at least three states (Iowa, Minnesota and Michigan) have sued school districts, insisting that the schools should have warned students the NCAA would not accept a particular course. But districts have countered that it can take months to get a response from the NCAA about which courses are deemed acceptable. And who is the NCAA to overrule courses that otherwise satisfy undergraduate admissions requirements to Yale, Harvard and the Air Force Academy? Should the NCAA be the arbiter of which high school courses are appropriate for college preparation? (Nathan, 1998)
Under mounting pressure from educators and elected officials, the NCAA in January modified its approach for certifying core courses by allowing high school principals to recommend which courses meet NCAA standards. But the NCAA reserves the right to overrule principals' decisions. The NCAA's modest response followed meetings with national education groups, including AASA. The Minnesota Association of School Administrators has submitted to AASA for consideration a resolution that states it is not the NCAA's role to dictate course content to high schools.
The U.S. Department of Justice also has challenged the NCAA for automatically rejecting courses involving special education services. Some students who had attained acceptable college entrance test scores…