The Morgan State football team was one of five NCAA football programs banned from postseason play in the fall after failing to meet a satisfactory score in the Academic Progress Rate report released Wednesday.
The Bears' APR score of 829 during the 2014-15 academic year was 100 points less than the school's score 10 years ago and fell well short of a 930 four-year APR, which predicts a 50 percent graduation rate for the team. Teams that do not earn at least a 930 APR are subject to penalties intended to place an additional emphasis on academics.
In addition to being ineligible for the postseason, the football program will lose four hours of practice time and one day of practice per week during the season. The team will also lose four hours of practice time out of season, and football workouts in the spring are prohibited. All time lost is expected to be replaced with academic activities.
Athletic director Floyd Kerr said the university was expecting, and had accepted the sanctions.
"It's a message to the university that we need to do a better job, which we are doing, to support the academics of our student-athletes," Kerr said Wednesday evening. "The university remains a staunch advocate for higher education and high academic standards in all of our sports. The university and the athletic department are working very closely to make sure that academic enhancements are in place so that our student athletes are academically successful.
"Even though we are a limited-resources institution, we have redirected those resources so that we can support our student-athletes academically. So the impact has been widespread across the university, and we've put together a broad-based coalition to achieve these ends."
The latest sanctions come on the heels of Lee Hull leaving the football team in February as its head coach to become the wide receivers coach with the Indianapolis Colts. Offensive coordinator Fred Farrier was named the interim coach.
One day before the team's season opener at Air Force on Sept. 5, 2015, at least five starters were ruled ineligible for the entire season after an NCAA review found shortcomings in mandated academic requirements.
Kerr acknowledged that the NCAA review served as a precursor to the penalties imposed by falling short of the APR standards. He said the university has added academic advisors, tutors and online programs to help student-athletes with their coursework and catch up on classes missed when they travel.
Kerr said since the hiring of Hull as football coach on Jan. 9, 2014, the program has made small, incremental improvements. He noted that the team's collective grade-point average has risen from 2.21 in 2014 to 2.53.
"To get it up there means that you're doing something to move that needle in a positive, meaningful direction," Kerr said. "So to me, that's meaningful improvement in our academic performance of the kids, and it's a direct indicator for me as an athletic director that we can achieve this and we can make up this ground."
Kerr said the postseason ban has not yet prompted a player to ask for a release from the school so that he can transfer.
"That is one thing that we know is a concern, but a majority of our young men have said they're staying here in the program," he said. "They like the program. They like what our coaches are doing. They like the environment here with their student-athlete experience, and this is another challenge we will face. We have a schedule we're going to play, we're going to play all of our MEAC teams and we're going to play that schedule, and they intend to be successful with that schedule and accept the consequences of poor academic performance in the past and move forward."
The Morgan State men's basketball team also was penalized with loss of practice time. The program will lose four hours of practice time and one day of practice per week during the season. The men's cross country team also received a postseason ban.
APR was created by the NCAA in 2003 to hold schools accountable for athletes' academics. The APR provides a glimpse at a program's academic successes by awarding points for eligibility, retention and graduation. In addition to Morgan State, football programs at Florida A&M, Howard, Savannah State and Southern are banned from postseason play. All are historically black colleges and universities.
Towson scored well with all 19 of the Tigers' athletics teams scoring above the NCAA multiyear threshold of 930. Women's cross country, women's lacrosse, women's soccer and women's tennis each have a multiyear score of 1,000.
All of the programs at Coppin State, Mount St. Mary's, Navy and UMBC eclipsed the NCAA multiyear threshold of 930. Navy women's soccer, women's lacrosse, men's tennis and men's cross country all scored a perfect 1,000. Mount St. Mary's women's cross country also scored 1,000.
All but three of UMES' 13 athletic programs met the NCAA's multiyear APR standard. Softball, women's tennis and men's tennis each scored below a 930 for 2014-15. Men's golf led the way with a 993.
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