State Rep. Rickey Hardy’s twice-failed effort to raise the minimum grade point average for high-school athletes will be a main topic of discussion Saturday morning at the Hollinger JockSmart Breakfast Forum in the Cajundome Convention Center, but the Louisiana High School Athletic Association — the main opponent of Hardy’s efforts — will not be there.
The event’s namesake — former UL All-American tennis player Curtis Hollinger (at left), who created the JockSmart Sports Fest to raise money for the UL Athletic Foundation — expressed frustration that his offer to the LHSAA was ignored. “[LHSAA Commissioner] Kenny Henderson was reached out to twice by me, but never returned my phone calls or my e-mails,” Hollinger said by phone Friday morning, “and James Simmons, who is the local Lafayette Parish School Board athletic director, sent me an e-mail saying he was going to play and participate, and all of a sudden he backed out on me, so LHSAA will not be in the house to my understanding, unfortunately. But they were reached out to.”
The forum, set for 9 a.m., will feature as panelists Hardy, state school Superintendent Paul Pastorek, Southern University Athletic Director Greg Lafleur — all supporters of Hardy’s bill to raise the minimum GPA for high extracurricular activities from 1.5 to 2.0. The only opponent scheduled to participate is Janet Hiatt, former principal at Northside High and Acadiana High.
Hardy’s legislation, which was shot down in committee in the 2008 and 2009 legislative
sessions, was also backed by the state Board of Secondary and Elementary Education and Gov. Bobby Jindal. One argument against the higher minimum GPA was that it would prevent more high school students — many, if not a majority, of them African-American — from participating in athletics and could lead to a higher drop-out rate and increased crime in the community. Hardy isn’t buying it. “Arguments such as this are undocumented, unresearched and bulls**t,” the Lafayette lawmaker and former school board member said Friday, offering a preview of comments he will make Saturday morning at the forum. “A student can do nothing with a below-average D, I stress below-average D. One cannot be accepted into college with a below-average D; once cannot play sports in college with a below-average D. Why? Because the student is academically below average.” Indeed, the NCAA requires student athletes to maintain a 2.0 average to participate in collegiate athletics. “Remember,” Hardy adds, “they’re student-athletes, not athlete-students.”
The state rep says he’ll introduce the legislation again next year, and every year until he’s either successful or can no longer serve in office. “I’m fired up man, I’m ready to rumble!”
For more information on attending the Hollinger JockSmart Breakfast Forum call Curtis Hollinger at 233-1471 or Julie Falgout at 482-0700, or log on to goacadiana.com and click on sports. Tickets are $20 dollars for adults and $15 for students; attendees receive a ticket to Saturday’s UL-Southern football game at Cajun Field. The featured speaker at the forum will be Florida State All-American football player and Rhodes Scholar Myron Rolle. Former Heisman Trophy winners Mike Rozier and George Rogers, as well as former New Orleans Saint Dalton Hilliard and UL gridiron great Todd Scott will also attend.