Rockford Auburn (5-4) has qualified for the IHSA football playoffs for the first time since 1990 and will play at top-seeded Cary-Grove (9-0) at 4 p.m. Saturday in the Class 6A first round.
Auburn’s resurgence could be partly due to a change in academic policy over the summer within Rockford’s public school district. Officials there lowered the academic standards athletes previously needed to compete in sports. Rockford was the focus of a recent report on ESPN’s “Outside the Lines,” which aired Sunday morning.
ESPN’s report can be seen here, along with a story by one of its staff writers.
While Auburn’s players still remain eligible under IHSA standards, the report alludes to the fact that Auburn’s football team might have more players than it is usually capable of fielding due to the lowering standards. The issue raises difficult questions about whether it should be a priority to have athletes in school for the sake of having them in school versus making participation in athletics a privilege.
The report includes comments from Rockford Register Star blogger Ted Biondo. Here are the links to Biondo’s informative blog entries on the subject:
July 25: “2.0 GPA off the table again for Rockford school athletes”
Aug. 25: “Lowering academic standards for sports, a continuing education problem”
Sept. 17: “ESPN also looked at educational side of 2.0 GPA debate”
In the case of Rockford, it appears socio-economic issues (poverty, gangs, lack of family structures) have gotten so bad, that the lowering of academic standards appears to be a white flag. I was never an athlete in high school, but I have made a living out of writing about them. I still worry that this could be a trend in other communities where athletic participation is more important than academic progress. Few really give any thought about what the current academic standards are for playing sports in the Chicago Public Schools.
I had to smile uncomfortably for a moment when, during the report, an athlete admitted that his ability to play football has ignited his interest in college. He owns a 1.8 GPA.
Wow. I thought. That might be a little too late. Using a cliche: In Rockford, “Are they putting the cart before the horse?”