OAL cracks down on eligibility rules for athletes

The Oakland Athletic League is cracking down hard on eligibility rules this year for all sports.
In previous years, the league let some players participate even though they did not meet grade and credit requirements.

What happened, according to new OAL commissioner Russell White, is that the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) made a new requirement a few years ago and it is now being followed by the OAL.

“All we are doing is following the rules,” said White.
White said that parents and athletes at the beginning of the year were upset that they were only learning about the rules after the season started. White said he understands that the communication should have been better, but that parents also should be aware of whether their children are meeting the minimum requirements toward graduation.

Johnny Lurigo, the league’s eligibility compliance officer, explained the rules.
“Students must be showing progression to graduate,” he said. “For the past years, the rules have been the same. It’s even the same for transferees.”

Lurigo said two forms proving eligibility for students who transfer school districts also must be on file with the OAL.

Under OAL eligibility rules, athletes must have a minimum 2.0 GPA and the minimum number of credits for their grade level. That means that sophomores must have at least 50 credits to play sports, junior athletes need 110 credits and senior athletes need 170 credits.

At Fremont High School, those rules mean that nearly half of the 615 upperclassmen are ineligible for sports.
Only 127 of the 254 sophomores (50 percent) are on track to graduate, according to Fremont High School statistics. Only 89 of 185 juniors (48 percent) and 120 of 176 seniors (68 percent) are considered to be on track with credits and grades.

According to a news article in the Oakland Tribune, Castlemont had to forfeit three non-league football games and Skyline had to forfeit one football game in the preseason because too many players were ineligible.
Student athletes have mixed reactions about the enforcement.

“These rules make you have to be a real student athlete,” said senior football player and honor student Gevon Wheeler. “It’s good because you have to do good [in school], but bad for those who are playing the catch up game.”

Senior basketball player Darnell Waters also is concerned about students who are catching up on credits after starting out high school with bad grades.

“This rule hurts a lot of student athletes who are playing the ‘catch up’ game and now they’re trying to get back on top of their grades/credits,” said Waters, who has kept up with his credits but has not always had above a 2.0 GPA.

Some athletes say they wish coaches, teachers, parents and those in charge of the OAL would sit down and actually hear some of the ineligible students’ plans for doing better before they make decisions.

“I plan on taking night classes and summer school to get that D-1,” said junior football player Su’e Tagavau, referring to wanting to play in the highest level of collegiate sports.

Commissioner White told the Tribune there was an appeal process for credit issues.
Some coaches and athletes fear that some students who are mainly motivated to get good grades for the sport will give up on school altogether when they find out they can’t play due to missing credits from previous years.

“I feel like [the OAL] shouldn’t hold our past for our future,” said senior softball player Shantel Berry. “Based on our most recent GPA, they should let us play.“

Wheeler said he wishes the CIF and OAL would make an exception for students who have turned themselves around.

“I would change some of the new OAL rules because if you’re an upperclassman and you have at least a 3.0 GPA (for the most recent marking period), you should get a pass,” he said.
It’s not only the athletes who wish for changes to the crackdown on credits.

“I don’t like it,” said Scot Alexander, head coach of the Fremont boys basketball team. “It doesn’t give people a second chance; everybody makes mistakes. Give them a chance to turn around.”