Thursday, May 06, 2010

Tennessee Hates Good Students

It's pretty easy to summon up outrage these days. Much of it is fake, a pose of outrage geared toward scoring easy political points, a trend I have called "fakerage," though "mockrage" would be as good a term for it. The world of sports is not immune from this phenomenon, which sometimes makes it all the more difficult to recognize a true outrage when it occurs.

Well, Sports Illustrated's Phil Taylor has found one. In his "Point After" column in this week's SI Taylor tells the story of four would-be cross country runners at Chattanooga's elite McCallie School. All four are elite students. And all four should be elite athletes on the school's cross country team. But they have been declared ineligible not because of anything they have done, but because they are such good students that they attend the school on academic scholarships.

Tennessee athletic officials, recognizing the legitimate possibility of abuse of academic scholarships for high school athletes, have nonetheless committed a pretty absurd injustice by ruling these students ineligible. And state officials have shown no sign of budging. Essentially because of the possibility of abuses that surely could be policed were the state inclined to try to do so, these four students who have abused nothing do not get to experience being high school athletes. I'm sure we could all find better examples of petty bureaucratic dogmatism, but we'd have to search pretty hard. Let's hope that Taylor's column proves to be the push factor allowing the three who will still be in school next year to run for McCallie. The other is Harvard bound in the fall.

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