The University of Idaho football team is ineligible for postseason play, the school announced Saturday morning. The Vandals failed to meet NCAA Academic Progress Rate (APR) standards for the 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012 seasons.
The athletic department knew the penalties were a possibility, given the football team's declining APR scores under former coach Robb Akey, Spear said. The team had an APR of 971 (out of 1,000) in 2009, 921 in 2010, 881 in 2011 and 838 in 2012. The four-year average was 903, below the NCAA's requirements for postseason eligibility.
Current head coach Paul Petrino took over in 2013.
The NCAA notified Idaho in November of the penalties. The school appealed in January and again in early April. The NCAA informed Idaho that it had lost those appeals on Thursday. Spear and Petrino told the team of the penalties on Saturday morning. The team completed spring practice Friday evening.
"We respect the NCAA's rules and take full responsibility for these penalties,” Idaho Athletic Director Rob Spear said in a statement. “We are disappointed that the progress already made and the changes we began implementing in 2011 to correct the academic deficiencies were not fully recognized."
Spear said the Vandals have made strides in academics under Petrino. The team is projected to have a 960 APR for the 2013 season. That progress should keep Idaho from more penalties next season.
"It's directly related to the discipline and quality that Coach Petrino has brought to this football program," Spear said during a press conference Saturday morning.
Idaho's seniors, provided they have not lost points in the APR during their career, would be eligible to transfer to another school and play immediately. Petrino said he spoke with the seniors individually and collectively Saturday morning.
"From what I came out of this morning's meeting is I feel all the seniors will return," Petrino said.
He singled out seniors Maxx Forde, Mike Marboe and Dezmon Epps, saying he had individual meetings with each.
"They're all Vandals. They're 100 percent with us," Petrino said.
Idaho will also lose four hours of practice time each week, which must instead be devoted to study hall. Petrino said the Vandals would reduce Sunday practices by three hours, limiting the program's "Get Better Sundays," in which younger players were able to scrimmage each week. He said the Vandals would also reduce practices on Wednesdays and Thursdays by 30 minutes.
"That is a hard penalty," he said. "... It's a very stiff penalty, one that we have to overcome."
Idaho appealed the penalty, in part based on the conference realignment upheaval that left the Vandals as an independent last season and the accompanying loss of television and conference revenue from television. The appeal was denied. Idaho will be a football-only member of the Sun Belt Conference in 2014.
Sun Belt Commissioner Karl Benson told the Statesman that the league was aware of Idaho's APR issues before the school was invited to join the conference.
"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. I'm confident that under the leadership of President (Chuck) Staben, Rob Spear and Paul Petrino that the Vandal football academic record will improve significantly."
Idaho has been to two bowl games since joining the Football Bowl Subdivision, reaching the Humanitarian Bowl in Boise in 1998 and 2009.
The Vandals are not the only team in the West to face a postseason ban. UNLV recently announced it would not be eligible for the postseason because of APR.
Press release from Idaho
MOSCOW, Idaho – April 26, 2014 – The NCAA on Saturday levied penalties against the University of Idaho football team after it failed to meet Academic Progress Rate (APR) standards for the 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012 seasons.
As a result of the academic progress shortfall, the Vandals will be ineligible for post-season bowl games or the College Football Playoff during the 2014 football season. Additionally, they will lose four hours of practice time per week – an amount that must be devoted to study hall. The football APR scores that led to the sanctions for the 2014 season were 971 in 2009, 921 in 2010, 881 in 2011 and 838 in 2012 for a four-year average of 903.
“We respect the NCAA’s rules and take full responsibility for these penalties,” said Rob Spear, University of Idaho’s Director of Athletics. “We are disappointed that the progress already made and the changes we began implementing in 2011 to correct the academic deficiencies were not fully recognized.”
Beginning in 2011, the University of Idaho athletics department made some very serious and substantive modifications to the football program in order to address the APR score decline. Some of these actions include:
· Increased academic support for student-athletes from two FTEs to 4½ FTEs;
· Increased support for and access to student-athlete tutoring services;
· Invested $110,000 to upgrade facilities and technology including a computer lab and quiet study area in the Kibbie Dome;
· Developed a corrective action plan in December 2011 outlining future expectations;
· Took decisive action in October 2012 after a disproportionate number of student-athletes had failing grades at mid-term;
· Implemented a transcript evaluation process;
· Developed a learning disability testing program;
· Sponsored mandatory substance abuse programs; and
· Implemented stricter policies to monitor post-eligibility student-athletes to ensure they graduate.
“My commitment to education mirrors my commitment to football,” said football coach Paul Petrino, who was hired in December 2012. “Our players will attend class. They will graduate. They will value and take advantage of the educational opportunities they are being given. Our projected APR for the 2013 team is 960, and we intend to make sure we attain it.
“It’s unfortunate that the players who are here now and are working hard, going to class and doing things right, are paying the penalty for the past.”
In addition to the projected APR of 960 for 2013, collective GPAs for Petrino’s teams were 2.5 in the spring and fall 2013 and 2.89 in summer 2013.
Spear reiterated Coach Petrino’s commitment to the importance of academic as well as athletic success.
“The number one goal of our athletic program is to educate and graduate student-athletes,” he said. “The University of Idaho intercollegiate athletics program is absolutely devoted to providing and facilitating a first-class education to our student-athletes. The fact that 15 of our 16 programs uphold our academic mandates and comply with NCAA APR standards is indicative of our commitment to academics.”
University of Idaho President Chuck Staben said the university will use this circumstance as an opportunity to improve. “I have made it clear that I expect all University of Idaho athletics programs to meet NCAA academic standards,” Staben said. “I am pleased by the academic progress the football program has already made and I am confident in the plan that Coach Petrino and Athletics Director Rob Spear have provided to move forward.”
All sports programs at NCAA institutions receive an APR score at the end of each school year. Scores are compiled based on points given for eligibility and retention for every student-athlete each semester. Under this scoring system, every student-athlete can receive a maximum of four points. The APR score for each school is based on a percentage, so the maximum score any school can receive is 1,000 (or 100 percent). Schools that receive a rating of 930 or less over a four-year period are subject to penalties.
The NCAA requires extraordinary mitigating circumstances in order to grant a waiver for penalties assessed for low APR scores.
The University of Idaho’s athletics department included the following extraordinary mitigating circumstances in its appeal:
1. Upheaval among the intercollegiate athletic conferences
2. A loss of almost $1 million in revenue – the majority from television and conference revenue
3. Significant behavioral issues within the football program
“I thought we made a compelling case regarding the extraordinary circumstances that began in June 2010,” said Spear. “At the end of the day, we accept the penalties and have used this adversity to make our athletic program stronger.”