So, The lede reads: “With rare exceptions, U.Va. historically has not allowed freshmen — athletes or otherwise — to enroll at midyear. But the school has modified its policy, in part because many of its peers allow January admissions. A few first-year student-athletes each year may be admitted to U.Va. at the start of the second semester.”
And that, by itself, is good news. The fact that Al Groh isn’t allowed to offer early enrollment to anyone creates a significant disadvantage for the team in terms of roster management, recruiting, etc. Just from last year, the Hoos likely lost out on recruit Anthony Castonzo — a solid high school student that could’ve handled Virginia academics a few months early — over UVa’s lack of early admissions. And he only went on to become a starting tackle for top 10 Boston College as a true freshman. He would’ve been a superb addition to a depth-starved offensive line.
So, any movement away from the archaic stigma against January admissions is a positive. But the devil is in the details or, here, the execution. The broad brush:
Under the new policy, which went into effect this academic year, U.Va.’s College of Arts and Sciences agreed to consider for January admission prospective student-athletes who have “solid academic records and have graduated from high school,” [Jack Blackburn, U.Va.'s dean of admissions,] said.
[Athletic Director Craig] Littlepage said: “They would not have to be extraordinary students — 4.0 [grade-point average], 1,500 SAT type of students — but students who would demonstrate by courses taken, standardized-test scores and writing skills that they could be inserted into an academic program midyear and be successful.”
How accommodating will the admissions department be? I’m fine with reserving the policy for the better students. I’ve always argued that, in order to work at Virginia, early enrollment should be for solid students who could handle college early. But this quote from Dean Blackburn is not very encouraging:
“Educationally, we think it’s not a good idea…. We still feel that way, but we’ve decided to be reasonable with our athletic department, and the college deans feel [the new policy will work].”
Clearly, he had to be dragged, kicking and screaming, into accepting this new system. My concern is that Blackburn has a bias against January admissions, and he won’t be as flexible on a case-by-case basis as the football team needs to get the Anthony Castonzas of the world — even with the pro-academics version of Virginia’s early enrollment policy. If the standard is as squishy and vague as reported, Blackburn and his crew could find problems (if they wanted to look hard enough) with the resumes of most applicants for early admission. Not enough AP classes here, too many art classes there. This one took a study hall his junior year. This other one didn’t, but I heard that his AP Physics teacher is a slacker. You get the drift.
As Dean Blackburn says: “I think our thought is, we’re not going to set hard and fast rules on that…. It depends on the quality of the kids.” Yes, but, it also depends on the fairness of the application of the “soft and slow” rules.
While the new policy is a welcome step, I’m looking forward to the implementation. Until Coach Groh is able to use January admissions in a way that closes the gap with other schools on the benefits of early enrollment, I’m reserving judgment for now.