NCAA: No bowl, less practice time for Vandals

The NCAA penalizes Idaho's program for poor academics.

bmurphy@idahostatesman.comApril 27, 2014 

During his first season at Idaho, football coach Paul Petrino put his Vandals through lengthy Sunday practices called "Get Better Sundays."

The extensive practices allowed younger players to get plenty of game-like reps, a plus for a program trying to rebuild and develop players.

Those practices are going away in 2014, Petrino said, after the NCAA punished Idaho for not meeting Academic Progress Rate standards for the four-year period from 2009 to 2012.

Idaho will not be eligible for a bowl game and will lose four hours of practice each week, time that must be devoted to study hall instead.

"That is a hard penalty," Petrino said. "Sunday is going to be a big thing. We'll add a two-hour study hall on Sundays, which we've already done, and take away our 'Get Better Sundays,' " Petrino said. "It's a very stiff penalty, one we have to overcome."

Idaho will cut three hours from Sundays and 30 minutes from Wednesday and Thursday practices to satisfy the penalties, Petrino said.

The APR is an NCAA standard used to measure retention and academic eligibility. For 2014-15, teams must have earn a 930 four-year average or 940 average over the most recent two years to avoid penalties.

Idaho posted scores of 971 (out of 1,000) in 2009, 921 in 2010, 881 in 2011 and 838 in 2012 for a four-year average of 903. Robb Akey was the team's head coach during that four-year period.

Each scholarship athlete earns one retention point for staying in school and one eligibility point for being academically eligible. A team's total points are then divided by possible points and multiplied by 1,000 to reach the APR number.

Idaho has been aware of its predicament. In October 2012, after it was discovered that a disproportionate number of athletes had failing mid-term grades, Idaho instituted several changes, including sponsored mandatory substance abuse programs and stricter monitoring policies. Akey was fired in October 2012.

Idaho projects a 960 APR for 2013, Petrino's first season.

"The improvement is a testament to those changes that we made," Athletic Director Rob Spear said. "It's directly related to the discipline and quality Coach Petrino has brought to the football program."

Idaho officially learned of the NCAA sanctions in November, but appealed them in January and again in early April. The school cited conference realignment upheaval which left the football program as an independent in 2013 and cost the department more than $1 million in television and conference revenue as "extraordinary mitigating circumstances."

The NCAA notified Idaho on Thursday of its final decision. The program told its players Saturday morning, just hours after their Friday night spring game.

Idaho's seniors - provided they have not lost a point in the APR ratings during their careers - are eligible to transfer and play immediately at their new school because of the postseason ban. Petrino said he met with seniors individually and collectively and does not expect any to leave the program.

Petrino said he met with defensive end Maxx Forde (63 tackles, nine for loss and 5.5 sacks in 2013), center Mike Marboe (36 consecutive starts, three-time Rimington Award Watch List member) and wide receiver Dezmon Epps (79 catches, 980 yards in 2013).

"They're all Vandals. They're 100 percent with us," Petrino said.

Idaho will be a football-only member of the Sun Belt in 2014. Sun Belt Commissioner Karl Benson said the league was aware of some of Idaho's APR issues before inviting them last year.

"We're confident they are well on their way to rectifying the deficiencies," Benson said. "I know they've invested significant revenue to right the shop and have made a commitment."

Idaho has reached two bowl games since moving to the Football Bowl Subdivision. The Vandals won the 1998 and 2009 Humanitarian bowls in Boise.

Idaho went 1-11 in Petrino's first season, following 1-11 and 2-10 seasons in 2012 and 2011, respectively.

"(Reaching a bowl) was definitely one of our goals," Petrino said. "Now our goals are to win every day, be undefeated at home, win the Sun Belt Conference. It's still our goal to be bowl eligible. It's still a great goal to achieve. That's what we're going to strive to get done."

Idaho is the second team to announce it is ineligible for the 2014 postseason because of APR. UNLV is also ineligible. As many as three more teams may get penalized when the NCAA announces its penalties May 14, CBS Sports reported Saturday.

Idaho State was ineligible for the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs in 2011 because of APR.

Boise State has ranked in the top 10 percent of FBS teams in APR the past three years. The Broncos posted the second-best APR rate in the country from 2008 through 2011.

Brian Murphy: 377-6444, Twitter: @MurphsTurph

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