New law gives freshmen, sophomores new hope for maintaining academic eligibility to play athletics

GAINESVILLE – A bill proposed by the Florida High School Activities Association to make adjustments to the statutory requirements regarding athletic eligibility has unanimously passed both houses of the Florida Legislature and has been signed into law by Gov. Jeb Bush.

Senate Bill 92 amends Section 232.425 of Florida Statutes that establishes standards for student participation in interscholastic extracurricular activities. Currently, it states that a student in the ninth through 12th grades must maintain a 2.0 cumulative grade point average in all courses taken that are required for graduation to be academically eligibility to participate in interscholastic athletic competition.

The newly adopted amendment still says that as long as a student maintains a 2.0 cumulative grade point average the student will be academically eligible for participation. It now goes on to say that if a student in the ninth or 10th grade falls below the 2.0 cumulative grade point average requirement, the student will be allowed to participate on a semester-by-semester basis if the student (a) earns a 2.0 grade point average on courses taken in the previous semester alone, (b) signs an academic performance contract with the school, and (c) attends summer school as necessary. Once, however, the student enters the 11th grade, he or she must have and maintain from that point forward the 2.0 cumulative grade point average to be eligible.

A 2.0 cumulative grade point average is required for graduation from Florida's public high schools.

FHSAA Commissioner Robert W. Hughes sees the new law as a victory for the Association, but more importantly, a victory for students.

"This effort proves that the Florida High School Activities can be more than just a regulatory body for interscholastic athletics. It should also be and is an advocate for student-athletes," Hughes said. "Academic eligibility requirements should be adopted with the purpose of encouraging students who want to participate in athletics to achieve in the classroom. The old law, however, had the potential to discourage a student from even trying. In some cases it took away all hope that kids who had poor first semesters in the ninth grade would ever be able to regain their eligibility no matter how hard they worked. Now, once again, they have that hope."

Hughes thanked Sen. Don Sullivan (R-Largo), the bill's sponsor in the Senate, as well as co-sponsors Sens. Jim Horne (R-Orange Park), Buddy Dyer (D-Orlando), George Kirkpatrick (R-Gainesville), Daryl Jones (D-Miami) and Steven Geller (D-Hallandale). He also thanked Rep. Janegale Boyd (D-Monticello), the sponsor of House Bill 73, the companion bill in the House of Representatives, as well as its co-sponsors Reps. Frank Farkas (R-St. Petersburg), Cynthia Chestnut (D-Gainesville), Bob Casey (R-Gainesville), Jerry Melvin (R-Fort Walton Beach) and Evelyn Lynn (R-Ormond Beach).

Hughes also recognized the support of several other organizations for their support.

"The Florida District Association of School Superintendents, the Florida School Boards Association, the Florida Association of School Administrators, the Florida Council of Independent Schools, the Florida Interscholastic Administrators Association and the Florida Athletic Coaches Association all were united with us in support of this legislation," Hughes said. "I really believe legislators took note of, and were impressed by, that fact."

Added Hughes: "It's really ironic that the FHSAA, which a little more than three years ago was on the hit list of virtually every legislator in Tallahassee, asked for and received the unanimous support of all representatives and senators this year."

The bill passed the Senate 38-0 and the House of Representatives 116-0. Gov. Bush signed it into law on April 20.

In addition to relaxing the academic eligibility requirements for freshmen and sophomores, the new law also:

• Clarifies that a student enrolled in a private school is not entitled to participate in athletics at a public school or vice versa; and

• Clarifies that a home education student is eligible to participate only at the public school that the student would normally attend or could attend under the school district's school choice plan, as well as any nonpublic school that will permit the student to participate; and

• Allows the FHSAA to once again be able to establish bylaws and regulations that address where a student lives, with whom a student lives and which school the student attended in the previous year in determining the student's eligibility.

Although the new law took effect immediately upon receiving Gov. Bush's signature, the FHSAA will not incorporate the new provisions into its bylaws and regulations until July 1. Hughes said that he currently is working with staff to develop the wording for these new bylaws and regulations.

The Florida High School Activities Association is the governing body for interscholastic athletics in Florida. It has a membership of 615 middle, junior and senior high schools.

Jack Watford
Director of Communications, FHSAA
(352) 372-9551 ext. 170
jwatford [at] fhsaa [dot] org