Last week congressmen Tom McMillen (D., Md.) and Ed Towns (D., N.Y.) introduced a bill called the Student Incentive Act, or STUDI Act. It's based on the sound idea that high schools should require students to perform well in the classroom before they can take part in extracurricular activities like sports.
The legislation would encourage school districts to insist that students maintain a C average (2.0 on a scale of 4.0) in core courses in order to participate in extracurriculars. Any district adopting such a policy would receive a 10% boost in federal Chapter 1 aid—money for programs to help academically deficient students, distributed according to the number of students from low-income families in a district.
"The genesis of many problems in college sports is the poor preparation students get at the secondary school level," says McMillen, a former Rhodes Scholar who played 11 seasons in the NBA. "This addresses that with a carrot approach. Schools that adopt higher academic standards for athletes are rewarded."
STUDI would bring money to students who need the most academic help, and would dovetail with NCAA Proposition 48, which requires incoming college athletes to have achieved a high school GPA of 2.0 in core courses. Asked about opponents who say sports are the only things that keep some kids in high school, McMillen replies, "Those critics are apologists for failure. I'm not ready to throw up the white flag."
Brian Boitano, the men's 1988 Olympic figure skating champion, got the equivalent of straight 0.0 scores last week from the International Skating Union (ISU), his sport's governing body. The ISU voted to allow figure skaters to skate professionally from now on without losing their Olympic eligibility, but opted not to restore the eligibility of current pros such as Boitano.
"People are calling this the Brian Boitano rule," says Boitano, 26. "I was really the only [pro] who had expressed any interest in coming back to compete in the Olympics." The ISU didn't explain its exclusionary policy, but Boitano believes the ISU is simply trying to keep out free-thinking veteran skaters who might challenge its authority.
It's unlikely the ISU will amend its rule, and that's unfortunate. Last week's action was designed to keep the world's best skaters in the Olympics. Excluding a sublime performer such as Boitano defeats the purpose.
GETTING DOWN TO BASICS