Tuesday, June 26, 2007


Birmingham News staff writer Joe Solomon, in a column today:
Academic impropriety in athletics is hardly new. What's changed is that across the country - and lately at Hoover - high school teachers trying to teach prominent athletes, not enable them, are facing more pressure than ever before.

At some high schools, teachers - especially those without tenure - face mounting pressure to not just pass athletes, but give them high grades to offset a low test score.

College coaches can use charm to subtly apply pressure on teachers. What high school teacher or administrator doesn't feel a little flushed when a multi-millionaire coach shakes his or her hand?

There are some teachers and administrators who believe that a player will become a success in life only through athletics. It's this type of enabling that ensures the player will become a janitor in five years after he blows out a knee.

Who wants to be known as the person who prevented Joe Star from playing at State U? It's easier - check that, it's safer - to do what you're told and move on with your life.

It's not entirely clear what's been happening at Hoover.
Oh, I don't know about that. Reading between the lines, I'd say Solomon has a very good idea of what's been happening at Hoover, and of which college's coaches and boosters may have been applying pressure to get grades changed.
A math teacher said a final grade was changed for one of his students, a football player, without his consent so the player could be eligible in college. Another teacher went to the school system's assistant superintendent concerned she would lose her job - which she did - because she resisted pressure to boost another player's grade.
This is still the Bamaham--uh, I mean, Birmingham News, though, and I really don't expect that particular college to be named first in its pages, no matter how many stories about Hoover High make it to press. You have to tip your hat to the already-developing spin; I wonder whose bright idea it was to try and deflect the blame to the NCAA?

Speaking of spin and what information makes it to the public, there's also this out of Hoover today:
A retired federal judge investigating possible academic impropriety involving athletes at Hoover High said Monday he will report his findings to the Hoover Board of Education, which will then decide whether to make the findings public.

Sam C. Pointer Jr., who met Monday with Superintendent Andy Craig to discuss the investigation, said he cannot promise anonymity to sources he interviews.

"I don't know whether the board will say, `Let's let it all hang out,' or if the board will say, `Let's at least protect names of people,'" Pointer said.

A.W. Bolt, a member of the school board, said his understanding is Pointer will examine allegations of grade fixing or changing for athletes and efforts to pressure teachers. Bolt said he supports making the report public, but will initially treat it as a confidential attorney-client communication.

"I'll have to read it and see if there are things in it that I think should not or could not be made public," Bolt said. "My hope is this particular attorney-client communication will be made public."
Secret investigations? A board determining whether or not to release results to the public? Why, it's almost... machine-like, isn't it?

UPDATE: I completely missed Kevin Scarbinsky's Sunday column, which meant I also missed this reference to the Ghost of Violations Past:
[Hoover principal Richard] Bishop has been a high school football coach himself. He's been an assistant at Emma Sansom in Gadsden when Gene Jelks played there and a head coach at Gaston and Cherokee County.

The principal likes football so much that when Alabama's new head coach visited Hoover during the spring evaluation period, Bishop had a sign posted in the front office.

The sign said, "Welcome, Coach Saban."
Yeah, I'd say Scarbinsky knows the score, too.

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