School Board Eases Academic Requirements for Athletes

By Earl Vaughan Jr.

Cumberland County Schools have long set a higher academic bar for students who want to take part in extracurricular activities, like sports and marching band for example. Some years ago, a rule was added that required students to maintain a minimum 2.0 grade point average, or numerical grade of 70, in the previous semester to be able to compete.

An attendance standard also was set, requiring students to attend at least 54 classes and go to school 85 percent of the semester.

Then came the COVID-19 pandemic, and the realization that even good students were being hurt academically by an event over which they had no control. This wasn’t a matter of not studying enough or falling asleep in class. Good students with good track records were falling by the wayside and potentially losing the chance to compete in athletics because of a virus that had overwhelmed the entire globe.

The Cumberland County Board of Education members got a real sense of how bad things were when they were presented with a demonstration that showed the random grades of some anonymous students.

In one case, there was a student with an unweighted overall grade point average of 3.0588. That’s roughly a B for folks who keep grades the old-fashioned way.

But during the peak of the pandemic, that student’s grade for the semester dropped to a 64.75, well below the required 70 for athletic eligibility.

But this student cleared the N.C. High School Athletic Association eligibility requirement, which sets a minimum of passing three of four classes in the so-called block schedule.

Earlier this week, after discussing the situation in a previous committee meeting, the board voted to waive the 2.0 and attendance rules, at least for the upcoming semester.

Board member Donna Vann said the pandemic has left such a mark on grades that operating on a business-as-usual plan is not the answer.

“There are too many kids who are not eligible,’’ she said. “It’s not that we want to win football or soccer games, it’s the fact the pandemic wasn’t these kids’ fault.’’

David Culbreth, student activities director for the Cumberland County Schools, agrees.

“We looked at the data and saw how it was impacting kids,’’ he said. “Their social and emotional well-being was impacted,’’ he said. “This will help them with challenges associated with the pandemic.’’

The board is likely to revisit the issue of the 2.0 and attendance requirements during future meetings.

• Terry Sanford High School’s Battle of the Bell soccer tournament returns next week after being canceled in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

First- and second-round championship and consolation matches will be at Terry Sanford and Cape Fear high schools, with the final consolation rounds at the Fayetteville Soccer Complex and the championship game at Methodist University.

Here’s the full schedule:

First round

Monday

At Cape Fear

6 p.m. – Gray’s Creek vs. Pinecrest

8 p.m. – Cape Fear vs. Lee County

Tuesday

At Terry Sanford

6 p.m. – Jack Britt vs. Southern Lee

8 p.m. – Terry Sanford vs. Fayetteville Academy

Thursday

At Terry Sanford

6 p.m. – consolation semifinals

8 p.m. – championship semifinals

At Cape Fear

6 p.m. – consolation semifinals

8 p.m. – championship semifinals

Saturday

At Fayetteville Soccer Complex

3 p.m. – third place, fifth place and seventh place games

At Methodist University

7 p.m. – Championship game.

• A reminder that the rescheduled one-day Cumberland County Football Jamboree is tonight at Terry Sanford and South View High Schools.

Here is the schedule at both locations:

At South View

6 p.m. – Douglas Byrd vs. E.E. Smith

7 p.m. – St. Paul’s vs. Gray’s Creek

8 p.m. – Apex Friendship vs. Scotland

9 p.m. – Pine Forest vs. South View

At Terry Sanford

6 p.m. – Triton vs. Overhills

7 p.m. – Richmond Senior vs. Terry Sanford

8 p.m. – Hoke County vs. Cape Fear

9 p.m. – Westover vs. Seventy-First

• Terry Sanford golfer Ethan Paschal is on the rise in the TYGA Junior Golf rankings.

Paschal, a junior this fall, recently moved up 11 spots in the rankings to take the No. 9 position.

His current scoring average is 73.59.