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.

Report: Oklahoma State adding Bob Stitt as offensive analyst

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Bob Stitt, who has become a bit of a cult hero in the college football coaching world over the last few years, is moving on up. Oklahoma State will reportedly add Stitt as an offensive analyst, according to a report from Bruce Feldman of Sports Illustrated, via Twitter.

Stitt was fired by Montana after this past season after missing the FCS playoffs for a second consecutive season and a second-round exit in his first season with the program in 2015. Stitt had become a rising star in the lower levels of college football after reshaping the offensive strategies with Colorado Mines in Division 2. The Nebraska native has coached a Harlon Hill Trophy winner (Division 2’s equivalent to the Heisman Trophy) and has coached Colorado Mines to three conference championships. Stitt gained notoriety after being given credit for his offensive strategies by West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen.

Stitt being let go by Montana came as a bit of a surprise after just three seasons with the program. Offensively speaking, Oklahoma State rarely needs any assistance in moving the football and scoring, but Mike Gundy is wise to bring in a mind like Stitt to add to the expanding of the offensive schemes in Stillwater.

As an offensive analyst, Stitt will be prevented from doing any on-field coaching and instead will focus on prepping the game plan and breaking down film. However, having Stitt on the staff in some capacity leaves a door open for a future position on the 10-man coaching staff should a position open at some point.

Jeff Banks looks to make Alabama’s special teams a strength

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If there is any crack in Alabama’s championship foundation, it may be on special teams. Looking to patch things up with the special teams, Alabama head coach Nick Saban has brought on new special teams coordinator Jeff Banks. The former Texas A&M special teams coordinator was officially announced as Alabama’s new special teams coach on Thursday.

“We are pleased to be able to add a coach the caliber of Jeff Banks to our staff as special teams coordinator,” Saban said in a released statement. “Jeff is well-respected across the country for his knowledge of the game and his ability to recruit. He is a great teacher and someone who will help our football team be successful.”

Banks comes to Alabama after five years at Texas A&M under former Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin, who was recently hired by Arizona. Special teams was one of the more consistently reliable aspects of the Aggies program under his watch, so Alabama hopes that can carry over to Tuscaloosa.

“I am thrilled to have the opportunity to join Coach Saban’s staff at The University of Alabama and work with such a talented group of student-athletes,” Banks said. “Coach Saban has built an unbelievable program that has a long tradition of success. I’m really excited to get out on the road recruiting, and I look forward to doing my part to help continue the success this program has enjoyed.”

Alabama ranked 90th in the nation last season in field goal percentage and 50th in the nation in punting average. Obviously, this has not hurt Alabama’s chances of competing for and winning national titles over the course of Saban’s time at Alabama, but it is somewhat remarkable just how many times special teams seems to make things just a little more difficult for the Crimson Tide. I suppose something has to at some point, right? In the recent College Football Playoff national championship, Alabama had to beat Georgia in overtime after a last-second field goal attempt at the end of the fourth quarter was missed.

The rich just keep getting richer at Alabama.

Temple prepares for next step in quest for new on-campus football stadium

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With time running out on the current lease at Lincoln Financial Field appearing on the horizon, Temple University continues to move forward with exploring their plans for a potential multipurpose facility that could be used to host Temple football on Temple’s campus. The school is now preparing to take the next step forward with the idea by presenting the plans to the City Planning Commission with the hope of being given the approval to continue pushing toward breaking ground on a new facility on Temple’s campus.

“We have said from the start that our first priority has been to engage with our neighbors and local leaders to determine the potential for, and impact of, this facility,” Temple president Richard Englert said in a released statement. “After more than two years of these discussions, and in light of the project’s tremendous value for Temple and North Philadelphia, I have concluded that the time is right to take this step.”

One of the biggest concerns about any on-campus football stadium is the reaction from the neighboring community that has been reluctant to embrace a football stadium being dropped right in the neighborhood.

Englert said in a released statement the university “will continue our conversations with neighbors to address concerns over the impact of the project.”

The football stadium would, in theory, be able to serve multiple purposes in addition to football and will be designed with surrounding economic opportunities in mind. Space for retail locations will be a part of the master plans to help inject some revenue into the surrounding area, and educational facilities will be included in the plans as well.

In all, the plan is currently estimated to cost roughly $130 million. Temple recently negotiated a short-term extension on their lease to use Lincoln Financial Field through 2019. If Temple is given the approval to move forward with their stadium plan, they could theoretically be able to play a true home game on their campus beginning in 2020.

Chuckie Keeton returns to Utah State as offensive assistant coach

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One of Utah State’s all-time best players is back with the program. Chuckie Keeton is joining the Utah State coaching staff, although his exact title has not yet been officially confirmed.

What role Keeton will take on remains to be officially announced, although the speculation is he will be an offensive assistant coach who will work with the Utah State quarterbacks. This will be Keeton’s second coaching job since his playing days came to a close. Keeton got started at Oregon State under former Utah State and Oregon State head coach Gary Andersen. Keeton joined the Oregon State coaching staff in 2016. With changes in the Oregon State program with a coaching change this offseason, now was as good a time as any for Keeton to return to Utah State, where he became one of the top players from a non-power conference program to become a bit of a household name.

Keeton shared his reaction to returning to his alma mater on Twitter.

Keeton holds a number of Utah State records including career records for completion percentage and pass efficiency and season records for most touchdown passes, passing yards, total offensive yards, and completion percentage. Utah State finished the 2017 season ranked 69th in the nation in passing offense and ended the year with 17 passing touchdowns to 13 interceptions.

Keeton’s college career was sidetracked by injuries far too often, but it will be good to see Keeton back with the Utah State program as he continues his coaching career.