Eric Sondheimer has been covering high school sports for the Los Angeles Times since 1997 and in Southern California since 1976. Get his latest from the field and follow all our prep sports coverage and analysis here.
The Rams and four high schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District -- Crenshaw, Eagle Rock, Fairfax and San Fernando -- are joining together for a pilot program that could spread to more high schools.
The Los Angeles Rams-LAUSD Academic Challenge will have the four high school football teams competing to finish the semester with the highest cumulative grade-point average.
The winning team will be given a $2,500 equipment grant from the Rams, and the players will be invited to a future Rams game.
Former Dorsey and UCLA running back Johnathan Franklin, the team’s director of community and external football affairs, will be coming to Eagle Rock on Thursday to talk to players. Rams players also could be making appearances at the four high schools.
“We’re encouraging kids to not just compete on the field but also in the classroom,” Franklin said.
The principal, assistant principal, athletic director and head coach at each school had to sign off on the program, so they are invested and accepting responsibility, along with players. The Rams will be providing academic binders for each student. Teams will be selecting five academic captains.
"I think it's awesome," Eagle Rock Coach Andy Moran said. "The players are pretty fired up. It's something to focus on other than winning. Study skills last a lifetime."
If all goes well, Franklin said the program could be expanded to more schools next season. The LAUSD picked the schools participating.