Bobby Hauck

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.

CFT Preseason Previews: Heisman Watch

TALLAHASSEE, FL - SEPTEMBER 12: Dalvin Cook #4 of the Florida State Seminoles runs for a 24-yard touchdown against the South Florida Bulls in the third quarter at Doak Campbell Stadium on September 12, 2015 in Tallahassee, Florida. Florida State defeated South Florida 34-14. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
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The 2015 season was the Year of the Running Back in college football. Alabama’s Derrick Henry became just the second ball-carrier to claim the Stiffarm Trophy since the turn of the century, and running backs accounted for the top two and five of the top eight voting slots. Three of those five are back this season. With that in mind, will running backs continue their forward momentum and claim back-to-back Heismans, and the first non-Alabama running back Heisman, since 1998-99? Or will quarterbacks wrestle it back? Or how about a wide receiver, an offensive lineman or a defensive…. okay, let’s keep this realistic.

Leonard Fournette, LSU RB: Undoubtedly the most talented player in college football. Problem is, he knows it. The talk of him sitting out the season to devote himself to a nine-month NFL Draft prep is an odd crusade for some in football, but it’ll never happen. Still, though, Fournette is already dealing with injuries this season. He knows the pot of gold awaiting him on the other side of that rainbow. Will he dig deep, put his head down and charge for those two extra yards, or will he opt for self-preservation and do his best to simply ride this season out?

Deshaun Watson, Clemson QB: He’s got the skills, and he’s got the tools around him. Better yet, Clemson’s defense will probably take a step back this season, meaning he could stay on the field for more fourth quarters as the Tigers pile on points to put people away. So, yeah, everything is here to make a Heisman run. On the other hand, how often does the preseason favorite actually win the Heisman these days? There was Marcus Mariota in 2014, yes. Before that you may have to go back to Troy Smith all the way back in 2006.

Christian McCaffrey, Stanford RB: The quarterback is new. The wide receiving corps and offensive line are re-tooling. Everyone in the stadium knows McCaffrey is getting the ball as often as possible, and in as many ways as the Cardinal can possibly get him the ball. Should his numbers remain anywhere close to his 2015 statistics, McCaffrey could benefit from voters’ desire to choose a “throw-back” candidate.

Dalvin Cook, Florida State RB: Cook’s numbers from a year ago — 229 carries, 1,691 yards, 19 touchdowns, a ridiculous 7.38 yards per carry, a full foot-and-a-half more than the next closest runner with at least 225 attempts — were Heisman-esque, yet only good enough to get him to seventh place in last year’s voting. Do that again on a team that should seriously contend for a national championship and Cook may jump all the way to first.

Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma QB: The knock against Mayfield is that he’s a system quarterback. But if you’re going to be a system quarterback, what better system to run than one with two All-America caliber running backs, playing in a conference where 40 points a game is a baseline, and with one of college football’s strongest brand names on your helmet?

J.T. Barrett, Ohio State QB: Barrett has been oddly overlooked this preseason. All he did two years ago was toss 34 touchdowns against 10 picks, hit nearly 65 percent of his throws for nine yards per attempt, finish second nationally in passing efficiency whilst rushing for nearly 1,000 yards — all as a redshirt freshman.

Quick hits on the rest of the field:

Josh Rosen, UCLA QB: Maybe the best pro-prospect in college football, but NFL scouts may like him more than Heisman voters.

Royce Freeman, Oregon RB: The overlooked running back of 2015 — 1,800 yards, 17 touchdowns. But will the Ducks’ defense hold his candidacy back?

Patrick Mahomes, Texas Tech QB: The most talented in the long line of prolific Red Raider quarterbacks. But can Texas Tech get enough stops to mount him a serious campaign?

Jabrill Peppers, Michigan ATH: Could he follow another Wolverine’s path to a do-it-all Heisman win?

Myles Garrett, Texas A&M DE: If the Heisman is going to a full-time defensive player, Garrett is it. But if Suh, Clowney, et. al., couldn’t break through that glass ceiling, why would Garrett?

ECU transfer Kurt Benkert wins Virginia’s starting QB job

In this photo taken Tuesday, Aug. 11, 2015 East Carolina quarterback Kurt Benkert rolls out to pass during NCAA college football practice in Greenville, N.C. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
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Four months ago, Kurt Benkert was one the losing end of a quarterback competition at East Carolina.  Fastforward to today, and he’s now the trigger man in a Power Five offense.

First-year Hoos head coach Bronco Mendenhall announced Wednesday that Benkert will start the season opener against Richmond.  Benkert had been involved in a competition that included returning starter Matt Johns and Texas/Arizona transfer Connor Brewer.

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Benkert came to the Cavaliers as a graduate transfer, but is not a one-year stop-gap as he has two years of eligibility remaining.

Named the Pirates’ starter in early August of 2015, Benkert sustained a right knee injury a couple of weeks later that knocked him out for the entire season.  Blake Kemp took over and kept a stranglehold on the starting job through spring practice this year, triggering Benkert’s decision to move on.

Benkert has attempted 10 passes in his collegiate career, all in 2014.

In starting all 12 games for the Cavaliers last season, Johns’ 2,810 passing yards were third in school history while his 20 touchdowns were tied for fourth.  His 17 interceptions, though, were the most of any FBS quarterback in 2015.

Cassius Peat granted release by Mich. St., appears headed to JUCO

COLLEGE PARK, MD - NOVEMBER 15:  A Michigan State Spartans helmet on the bench during a college football game against the Maryland Terrapins at Byrd Stadium on November 15, 2014 in College Park, Maryland.  The Spartans won 37-15.  (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)
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Earlier this month, Mark Dantonio stated that Michigan State was giving Cassius Peat “an opportunity to work on his academics and get himself in order” as his status with the program was “in flux.”

A week or so later?  He gone.

MSU confirmed Wednesday that Peat has been granted a release from his scholarship and will transfer from the Spartans.  And, in fact, the defensive lineman may have already found a new home, one at the junior college level.

Peat, initially a UCLA commit, was a three-star 2015 recruit who was rated as the No. 3 player at any position in the state of Arizona.  He took a redshirt as a true freshman, and had been listed as the No. tackle heading into summer camp.

However, according to mlive.com, Peat did not report for camp amidst his academic issues.

Ex-Oregon St. DB goes home to LaTech as grad transfer

LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 27:  Running back Justin Davis #22 of the USC Trojans is defended by safety Cyril Noland-Lewis #17 of the Oregon State Beavers in the second half at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on September 27, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. USC defeated Oregon State 35-10.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
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A week after transferring from Oregon State, Cyril Noland-Lewis has found a new home that happens to also double as his hometown.

The Ruston News Star, among others, has reported that Noland-Lewis is transferring into the Louisiana Tech football program.  As he is coming to Tech as a graduate transfer, he will be eligible to play for the Bulldogs in 2016, his final season of eligibility.

The defensive back, who went to high school in Ruston, was at the Bulldogs’ practice Tuesday as Tech continues preparations for the season opener Sept. 3 against Arkansas.

Noland-Lewis started 10 games for the Beavers last season.  Six of those starts came as a safety, the others as the nickel corner.  OSU moved Noland-Lewis to cornerback this offseason, where he ultimately found himself buried on the depth chart in summer camp.

The 6-0, 198-pound fifth-year senior, who began his OSU career as a linebacker, played in a total of 37 games during his time in Corvallis.