UNLV banned from 2014 postseason after appeal is shot down

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The worst fears of the UNLV football, rising a mini-wave of momentum from 2013, have been realized.

Late last month it was reported that, because of low scores on the NCAA’s Academic Progress Report (APR), UNLV was facing the loss of scholarships or even a bowl ban.  While the school stated at the time that it was “engaged in the APR process ahead of the June release,” that proved to be a fruitless endeavor as UNLV announced Thursday that its appeal to the NCAA on its bowl ban has been denied.

As a result, and because it failed to reach the minimum APR score, the Rebels football program will be banned from participating in the 2014 postseason. That ban would include the Mountain West Conference championship game should the Rebels qualify.

Last season was the first time the Rebels had participated in a bowl game since 2000.

“I am disappointed for the vast majority of our football players who understand the importance of academics and who embrace and meet their responsibilities,” athletic director Tina Kunzer-Murphy said in a statement. “In fact, 96 percent of the football players on our current roster have never cost UNLV an APR point – so clearly, the overwhelming majority of our student-athletes understand that their first priority must be academics.”

“I am also extremely encouraged and optimistic due to the response I have seen since I started here from our student-athletes, our coaches, our athletic department personnel and our University leadership. In particular, I want to thank our President, Don Snyder, and our Provost, John White, for all of their support in addressing this problem. Everyone associated with UNLV Football recognizes what the expectations are in terms of academic performance and everyone involved has shown a genuine commitment to getting these numbers where they need to be. We are taking a number of significant steps to improve the level of academic support.”

While scholarship losses were not a part of the punishment, further punitive measures will include “[r]eplacing four hours of weekly practice time with four additional hours of academic activities” as well as “[f]ive days of football-related activities per week instead of six.”

In the NCAA system for measuring academic progress, a school’s sports programs must each maintain at least a .930 APR (out of a possible 1.000) over a four-year period in order to maintain eligibility for postseason play in their respective sports.  A two-year score of .940 or above would also allow a program to be eligible for postseason competition.

According to a report from the Las Vegas Sun last month, UNLV’s four-year football APR was .932 last June, just above the threshold that could trigger a bowl ban or scholarship losses.  The football program has already dealt with the latter as the Rebels were docked a total of four scholarships in 2006 and 2007 because of low APR marks.

The APR, the NCAA’s handbook states, is designed to track student-athletes who receive athletics financial aid, with the report based on two factors: eligibility/progress toward graduation and retention. For those wondering how the system works and scores are accumulated, please allow The Association to explain:

During each regular academic term (a semester) of full-time enrollment, a student-athlete can earn a two points towards his/her team’s APR score. Each of the two factors (eligibility and retention) is worth 1 point. A student-athlete will receive 1 point if, at the end of the semester, he/she is academically eligible to compete in the following regular academic term or has graduated. Additionally, a student-athlete can earn 1 point if he/she returns to the institution (retained) as a full-time student in the next regular academic term or graduates. The same point system is applied every semester thereafter. So potentially, in one academic year (fall semester and spring semester) a student-athlete can receive 4 total points.

At the end of each academic year, the score of each student-athlete is added with the scores of his/her teammates. That number is divided by the total number of points that team could have earned. That number is then multiplied by 1,000, giving an individual sport its APR score.

The UNLV football team is still being hurt, the Sun points out, by an .891 APR for the 2011-12 academic year.

Ole Mis AD: Hugh Freeze would’ve been fired for cause if he hadn’t resigned

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In the end, regardless of how he chose to play it out, Hugh Freeze‘s time in Oxford would’ve come to an end.

Thursday night brought the stunning news that Freeze’s tenure as the head coach at Ole Miss had come to an end because of at least one call from his university-issued cell phone to a known escort service.  Freeze, to Yahoo! Sports, blamed the call on a misdial; Freeze’s now-former boss, athletic director Ross Bjork, led the same website to write that “further vetting of Freeze’s phone records disclosed a ‘pattern of conduct’ that led the school administration to confront Freeze this week.”

After meeting with Freeze Wednesday night and then again Thursday morning, the die had been cast for the coach.

Bjork said that if Freeze had not offered his resignation he would have been fired for cause, citing the “moral turpitude” clause in Freeze’s contract. Bjork said there was no buyout of the contract and no settlement.

“He admitted that conduct to us,” Bjork said. “None of us are perfect. Nobody in this room is perfect. I think we need to respect how he resigned and respect his privacy.

The infamous call in question — it lasted one minute, which gives at least some credence to Freeze’s claim that this one was a misdial — came to light as a result of Houston Nutt’s recently-filed lawsuit against Freeze, the university and other high-ranking school officials.  No other calls to that specific phone number were found in a review of an estimated 39,000 calls made from Freeze’s school-issued phone; “[h]owever, the school kept digging through the records and must have found additional troubling information,” the website wrote

Freeze’s admission to “that conduct” according to Bjork says as much.

Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze resigns after discovery of phone calls to escort service

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Forget about Hugh Freeze being on the hot seat in Oxford. He won’t even be coaching a single game for the Rebels this fall.

Hugh Freeze resigned from his position as head coach at Ole Miss suddenly on Thursday evening, just a week after SEC Media Days. The resignation is effective immediately, and the school has announced co-offensive coordinator and offensive line coach Matt Luke will take over the head coaching responsibilities for the upcoming season as the interim head coach. It should be expected Ole Miss will conduct a search for a new full-time head coach as soon as possible, but an official hire being made before the start of the season remains in question.

The resignation comes after the school discovered a phone call to an escort service coming from his school-issued cell phone. And it apparently was not an accidental wrong number either.

According to a report from Mark Schlabach of ESPN.com, Ole Miss reviewed phone records tied to Freeze as far back as 2012. Earlier in the day, USA Today reporter Dan Wolken reported Freeze had made a phone call to the number associated with a female escort service. The phone call in the report occurred in January of 2016. How many phone calls were discovered by Ole Miss is at this time unknown. Once confronted with the phone numbers by Bjork, Freeze is said to have offered his resignation. Whether he voluntarily offered to resign or if he was pushed to resign by the school may never be known for sure, but given the heat on Freeze already following recent headlines it may be pretty easy to see how this all played out behind closed doors.

It has been a troublesome summer for Freeze. Just last week, he was targetted in a lawsuit filed by former Ole Miss head coach Houston Nutt, and Freeze has had to deny any members of his staff knowingly violated any NCAA rules following an investigation into the program. Freeze was previously targeted in a lawsuit filed by the stepdad of former Ole Miss player Laremy Tunsil just months after the NCAA discovered 13 violations against the Ole Miss program under the leadership of Freeze last year.

In five seasons at Ole Miss, Freeze was 39-25 and coached Ole Miss to a 2-1 record in postseason bowl games. Along the way, he recruited some of the best classes in school history, although how he and his staff managed to do so has been the subject of plenty of scrutinies and the findings continue to come together to suggest foul play was used. Calls to escort services will not help that look at all. Before being hired at Ole Miss, Freeze coached Arkansas State to a 19-3 record in 2011.

Luke, an Ole Miss alum from the Class of 2000, joined the Ole Miss coaching staff in 2012 with Freeze.

Todd Graham subtly names Manny Wilkins starting QB at ASU, says Barnett will have to win the job

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Arizona State picked up a nice addition to the depth chart with the addition of quarterback Blake Barnett this past winter. Barnett was given the chance to be immediately eligible to play for Arizona State this season rather than have to sit out a season, but he will have to get to work in order to win the starting job with the Sun Devils if Todd Graham‘s latest comments are accurate.

Speaking to media today at a facilities tour, Graham was asked about the quarterback competition. Graham not-so-subtly named Manny Wilkins the team’s starter for the 2017 season, barring any other changes between now and the start of the season.

“I didn’t make an announcement, I just didn’t want our opponent know who was going to play but I thought our opponent knew, I think everybody knew,” Graham said, referring to a season-opening game against New Mexico State. “We have a returning starter and he’s the starting quarterback until someone beats him out.”

Perhaps most notably, one of the quarterbacks who will look to knock Wilkins off the top of the depth chart will be Barnett, the transfer from Alabama who was a major recruit for the Crimson Tide not so long ago. Barnett started the  2016 season as Alabama’s official starter but lost the full-time job to Jalen Hurts right out of the gate with a shaky performance in the season opener while Hurts put on a show (and led Alabama to the national championship game). Barnett then opted to leave the program in search of a new opportunity to compete for the starting job.

“Right now, we have a starting quarterback and Blake knows he has to beat him out,” Graham said. “I’m looking forward to see that competition and a very physical, Sun Devil tough training camp.”

Report: Alabama RB B.J. Emmons, CB Aaron Robinson leaving program

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The Alabama Crimson Tide may not be hurting on the depth chart as a result, but two players are leaving the program in search of other opportunities. Running back B.J. Emmons and cornerback Aaron Robinson are both leaving Tuscaloosa, according to a report from AL.com.

As the news was breaking, multiple reports say Emmons has enrolled at Hutchinson Community College. Emmons missed some games last season due to a foot injury, but he is expected to be back to 100 percent health this fall. Of course, at Alabama, the running back position is stacked and difficult to get much playing time to begin with. Robinson was also expected to be a backup for Alabama this fall after working with the second team unit in the spring.

Emmons was Alabama’s fifth-leading rusher in 2016 with 173 yards and a touchdown in seven games. Robinson appeared in 13 games and recorded five total tackles as a freshman.

Both Emmons and Robinson will be eligible to play for another FBS program starting in 2018 after sitting out the 2017 season, due to NCAA transfer rules. They are eligible to play at a lower division school this fall, whether it is an FCS or lower program or a junior college. The junior college route appears to be the path Emmons is taking by enrolling at a community college.