A year after being banned from NCAA postseason play, the Morgan State football team regained its eligibility by posting a satisfactory multiyear Academic Progress Rate, the NCAA announced Wednesday.
The Bears' APR score of 829 during the 2014-15 academic year was 100 points lower than the school's score 11 years ago, but the score rose to 853 for the 2015-16 year and the program can now participate in the postseason.
The team also regains the four hours of practice time and one day of practice per week during the season that it lost last year. The team will get back four hours of practice time out of season and can return to football workouts in the spring.
The news was welcomed by athletic director Edward Scott, who replaced Floyd Kerr on Nov. 7.
"I'm obviously excited for Morgan State, our athletic department and especially the young men in our football program. I think having eligibility in the postseason adds an energy level and excitement level to what they're playing for."
Scott credited the football program's improvement to the installation of an APR projection database that allows the athletic department and head coaches to forecast scores and semester-by-semester meetings with every head coach to gauge teams' academic progress.
"I want to change the conversation so that the next time we're having these types of conversations, it's not about, 'OK, we're postseason-eligible,' but we're getting public recognition for being in the top 10 percent," Scott said. "I think we owe that to our student-athletes, to our fans, to our institution. So we have to change the narrative and make sure folks understand that academics are going to be a part of my administration and an extremely important part of our culture."
The Morgan State men's basketball team also regained four hours of practice time and one day of practice per week during the season.
But the Bears men's cross country program is ineligible for postseason competition. The 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 out-of-season workouts are prohibited. All time lost is expected to be replaced with academic activities.
And the Morgan State women's basketball and women's track and field programs 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 out-of-season workouts are prohibited. All time lost is expected to be replaced with academic activities.
"Even though they are programs that are suffering some penalties, they are trending in the right direction," Scott said. "So where we're at is true, but I would say that over the next couple of years, a lot of our programs will be out of the penalty phase."
The APR is essentially a percentage of athletes who attend school and are in good academic standing. In addition to Morgan State, football programs at Florida A&M, Howard, and Southern University — all of which are historically black colleges and universities — are eligible to play in the postseason after being banned a year ago. Savannah State, however, will not play in the postseason for a second consecutive year.
At other area institutions, 23 of Navy's 25 varsity sports rated above the national average in APR. The men's cross country and tennis and women's lacrosse and soccer teams received perfect scores.
At Maryland, 15 programs maintained or improved their APR scores of 970. The football team recorded a 984 score, which is the program's best since the APR was implemented in 2003. As recently as 2010, the team's APR was 922.
The Terps' women's and men's basketball teams earned scores of 990 and 965, respectively. The men's score is the program's highest since 2010-11.
"We're excited to recognize our student-athletes' outstanding academic accomplishments," Maryland athletic director Kevin Anderson said. "They are committed to working hard in the classroom and setting a high academic standard that we are all very proud of."
Less than five years removed from a postseason ban that resulted from an unsatisfactory score, the Towson men's basketball team was one of five Tigers programs honored recently with an APR Public Recognition Award.
Men's basketball, men's golf, women's cross country, women's tennis, and gymnastics were cited for posting scores in the top 10 percent of their respective sports. While the cross country, tennis and gymnastics programs were recognized for multiple consecutive years, basketball and golf earned the award for the first time.
Men's basketball had been banned from the NCAA tournament in 2013 because of low APR scores from 2007-08 through 2010-11. Under the direction of coach Pat Skerry who took over for the 2011-12 season, the team has improved those scores.
"I am very proud of our student-athletes and the work they put into their academics as well as their athletics," said Geoff Gordon, Towson assistant athletic director for academic achievement. "They are the definition of student-athlete and their dedication and academic success demonstrates that. They pride themselves on their excellence in the classroom and on the field of play, and I couldn't be more proud of them all. They deserve all the credit and I have no doubt our student-athletes will continue along the path of academic excellence and merit."