Russell White and Gino Tagliaferri, perhaps the Valley-area's most prominent high school athletes during the past school year, shared less auspicious ground recently as both again failed to meet the minimum score of 700 on the Scholastic Aptitude Test mandated by Proposition 48 of the National Collegiate Athletic Assn.
Cal, which signed White to a letter of intent in February, announced Thursday that the tailback will forfeit his freshman year of athletic eligibility because he failed to score 700. White, who attended Crespi High, was one of the nation's most recruited players.
Tagliaferri, who led Kennedy High to the City Section 4-A Division baseball title last month, received similar news last week and will sit out his freshman year at Fresno State.
Under the guidelines of Prop. 48, which took effect in 1986, high school student-athletes must maintain a 2.0 grade-point average in core-curriculum classes and an SAT score of 700 or better to ensure eligibility as a freshman.
White, who could not be reached for comment Thursday, and Tagliaferri met the core-curriculum requirements but failed to meet the SAT standards.
White, who set state career records for rushing (5,998 yards), touchdowns (94) and scoring (568 points), took the SAT at least three times. Tagliaferri also took the test on several occasions.
"I'm disappointed that I will not be able to play this season, but I came here to Cal to get a good education and this gives me a chance to focus on my academics the first year," White said in a prepared statement released by Cal. "I'm going to be like any other freshman getting adjusted to college. Next year, I'll put the uniform back on and resume my football career."
Although White, who is attending summer school at Cal, is eligible to play football at a junior college next season, he said earlier this year that he would not pursue that option if he failed to meet Prop. 48 requirements on the SAT.
White and Tagliaferri could also retain their four years of eligibility by paying their own expenses for the first year at Cal and Fresno State, but it is doubtful that either of them will do so.
"I'm disappointed for Russell," said Bill Redell, who coached White during his three varsity years at Crespi. "I personally think that the whole SAT testing thing for athletes needs to be addressed. He took more core subjects than (NCAA guidelines) require and his GPA was 2.3, when they only require a 2.0. Russell did fairly well academically."
White led Crespi to a 28-8-1 record during his career at the private all-boys school in Encino. White was named the state player of the year after leading Crespi to the Southern Section Big Five Conference title in 1986.
He also performed brilliantly in track and field, winning six Southern Section 2-A Division titles during his career, including the 100 and 200 meters, long jump and triple jump this season.
White placed third in the triple jump, eighth in the 200 and ninth in the long jump in the state championships in June and was eighth in the 200 (88) and second in the triple jump (87) the previous two years.
Tagliaferri, who last season led California players in home runs with 13, was named the City Section 4-A and Times Valley Player of the Year and set a City career home run mark of 23.
Tagliaferri said that he is still in contact with the Detroit Tigers, who selected him in the third round of the amateur draft last month, but does not expect to sign. He said Detroit's most recent offer was for $55,000, a bonus that is at least $15,000 less than Tagliaferri would like.
"I'm registered for 17 units, I have a place to live and I'm ready to go," he said. "(Detroit) keeps saying that I won't survive in an academic atmosphere. But I've always done the minimum to get by in school. If I try, I know I can make it."
Fresno State Coach Bill Bennett said last month that the school would welcome Tagliaferri even if he did not satisfy Prop. 48 requirements.
"It's embarrassing," Tagliaferri said. "But they told me that this way, maybe it would help me adapt to college better."
Staff writer Steve Elling contributed to this story.