HOLMBERG: Local student athletes will get equal time to pull up their grades

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR)–Last night the Richmond School Board voted unanimously to delay, study and perhaps refine an across-the-board 2.0 grade point average standard for city student athletes, which apparently was the toughest current requirement in metro Richmond.

The board voted for the tougher new standard late last year at about the same time Henrico County adopted the 2.0 grades-to-play requirement, although that county is not starting it until 2014, Thomas Jefferson High School football coach Chad Hornik told school board members last night.

“Ultimately, the reason for that,” Hornik told the board, “is they want to use the whole (upcoming) academic year for a test period.”

In essence, implementing the standard immediately would be like expecting students who were running an 8-second 40-yard-dash last year to cut that down to six seconds over the summer.

Hornik told CBS-6 that he’s a firm supporter of the new standard, as well as moving toward to the 2.3 standard the NCAA system has in view for 2016. It’s crucial student-athletes focus on the student part of school, as well as prepare for college, he added.

“The issue at hand was the quickness of the implementation,” he said. That “was really challenging for us.”

He told the board that that school system had student-athletes last year “who didn’t even have a 1.0. And now we’re asking them to have a 2.0.”

He estimated he would lose about a third of his players if the standard stood for this season. After talking to other Richmond city football coaches, he estimated 80 players wouldn’t be eligible to suit up now.  He said already some football players had “found” relatives to stay with in the counties where they didn’t have the 2.0 standard.

Hornik also said student-athletes who wash out of school once they can’t play can be at  great risk. He told the board that he went to the funeral Saturday for a player who left the team last year and was shot to death at a Midlothian hotel recently. And later Saturday night, he said, another former player was gunned down on Brookland Park Boulevard. “I don’t want to see any more of this happening to our players.”

Board member Glen Sturtevant (1st district)  says it makes sense to delay to allow a smoother transition while still holding athletes accountable.

“This is something where I think Henrico is ahead of the game,” he said. “They’re delaying implementation and piloting it this year. We can probably take a page out of their playbook.”

Board member Shonda Harris-Muhammed (6th District) agreed, saying they should also study to policy for fairness and consistency.

Interim school superintendent Jonathan Lewis said it would make sense to make the new requirement part of the broader academic plan for the system.

Votes for both the delay and the fairness study were unanimous.

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