If academics received the same acclaim in school as athletics, students probably would be inspired to try harder, Granite District officials believe.

The district is studying a proposal to join former U.S. Education Secretary T.H. Bell in a pilot program to recognize outstanding academic performance."We'd like to promote recognition of academic accomplishment at a new level," said Briant Farnsworth, assistant superintendent for instructional services. He briefly outlined Bell's proposal for members of the Granite Board of Education.

Bell's leadership in the effort lends it a significant measure of credibility, Farnsworth said. The former U.S. secretary also has held a number of leadership positions in Utah's education structure, including commissioner of higher education.

In previous meetings with district officials, Bell said he believes students would be encouraged to a higher performance level if they got the same recognition for academics as they do for athletic achievement.

Granite may begin a program in selected junior high schools. Farnsworth said a committee of teachers and administrators is looking at the proposal.

He said businesses would be asked to help provide incentives for students.

"It will be a `partnering' effort," he said.

Bell told Granite leaders he believes the Pepsi-Cola company would help fund the costs of a pilot program. The company contacted Bell after he publicized his academic concept in an article in a local business magazine.