It has been more than 1,580 days since the Vandals were last in the post-season for football and due to new penalties handed down by the NCAA, that number could likely reach 2,000 when all is said and done.
This past Saturday, it was formally announced that the NCAA would be giving the University of Idaho football program a one year post-season ban as a byproduct of the team failing to meet Academic Progress Rate (APR) standards for the 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012 seasons. This means that Idaho will be ineligible to compete in any post-season bowl game or the newly created College Football Playoff during the upcoming 2014 season.
The opportunity to play in a post-season game isn’t the only thing being taken away from Idaho. Along with the ban, the team will have to reallocate four hours of practice time per week from the field to their study hall, a measure intended to help the team focus on their academic careers.
“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.”
Following two years of dramatically dropping APR scores, the University of Idaho athletics department in 2011 began taking corrective measures to ensure that the declines in their APR scores were being addressed. Those actions items included such steps as:
- Increased support for and access to tutoring services for student-athletes.
- Invested $110,000 to upgrade facilities and technology including a computer lab and quiet study area in the Kibbie Dome
- Implemented stricter policies to monitor post-eligibility student-athletes to ensure they graduate.
“My commitment to education mirrors my commitment to football,” said Idaho’s head football coach Paul Petrino. “Our players will attend class. They will graduate. They will value and take advantage of the educational opportunities they are being given.”
“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.”
Much like Coach Petrino, Spear also commented on how important it is for any student-athlete based team to be successful on and off the field.
“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.”
For NCAA institutions, all athletic programs receive an APR score when the school year comes to a close. Based off of eligibility and retention, every student-athlete within a program is scored per semester, with each student-athlete having the ability to earn as many as four points. Every school has the ability to earn a maximum of 1,000 points and any school that has a rating of 930 or less during a four-year period opens themselves up for penalties from the NCAA. Idaho’s projected APR for 2013 is currently at 960, up from 838 in 2012.
The NCAA does have a process where schools can appeal for a waiver to be granted to avoid being hit with penalties from having low APR scores, but this requires the school to prove that they went through some extraordinary mitigating circumstances to happen.
Citing conference realignment, loss of nearly a million dollars in revenue (because of conference realignment) and behavioral problems within the football program, Idaho did appeal the ruling twice earlier this year, but the appeals were denied. The school was notified in November that these penalties would be forth-coming.
“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."
Because of the ban, seniors on the team are eligible to transfer to another school if they choose and play immediately for that program’s team. As of Monday, Coach Petrino does not foresee anyone jumping ship to another program in the wake of this news. The players were informed of the ban on Saturday following the conclusion of their spring training on Friday.
Idaho will not be alone in this APR purgatory though. Earlier this month, UNLV became the first FBS school in the 10-year history of APR to receive a one-year ban. The Rebels will also be ineligible for post-season play, which includes the Mountain West Championship game.
It is unclear whether or not more schools could be subject to these penalties at this time.