Mike Gundy

Low APR to cost Okla. St. practice time

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While not nearly as severe as UNLV’s or Idaho’s punishment, another FBS program will be getting slapped by The Association for failing to meet minimum classroom expectations.

As first reported by Jon Helsley of The Oklahoman, Oklahoma State will be stripped of one practice day per week during the 2014 season for failing to reach the minimum 930 on the Academic Progress Report (APR) required by the NCAA over a four-year period.  The Cowboys avoided a postseason ban because its two-year average was half a point above the 940 threshold.

USA Today wrote that “the Cowboys probably will cease their customary Sunday evening practice, which was a brief on-field session used to correct mistakes from the previous day’s game.”

“We are taking steps to ensure that our APR numbers improve moving forward,” OSU azthletic director Mike Holder said in a statement released by the school. “We are accountable for what we do and ultimately, we are here to serve our student-athletes and do our best to keep them on track to be lifelong contributors to society.”

While OSU failed to make the grade academically, it did so by a razor-thin margin.  From the paper’s report:

OSU fell a fraction of a point shy of avoiding penalty, with its number at 929.41 for the last four years. Had the Cowboys been at 929.50, the number would have been rounded up, meaning they missed by nine-one-hundreds of a point. The Cowboys avoided a more damaging postseason ban.

That bowl ban will be felt in 2014 by UNLV and Idaho, as previously reported, while those two teams will also be hit with the practice time penalty.  Along with OSU, New Mexico State was the only other FBS program to lose only practice time because of low APR scores.

There were also total of seven FCS teams who are banned from the postseason playoffs.

On the positive side, the Top 10 in APR scores consisted of four schools from the ACC (Duke, 992, No. 1 to keep its historic streak alive; Georgia Tech, 983, T-No. 7; Clemson, 983, T-No. 7; Boston College, 981, No. 9), two from the Big Ten (Northwestern, 991, No. 2; Wisconsin, 989, No. 3), two from the Mountain West (Utah State, 988, T-No. 4; Boise State, 988, T-No. 4) and one from the Pac-12 (Stanford, 984, No. 6).

“Ten years ago, the membership designed the APR to encourage student-athletes to stay in school and earn good grades. We are pleased to see that more and more student-athletes are doing that every year,” NCAA president Mark Emmert said in a statement. “The significant academic standards adopted by our membership help us support success in the classroom to the same degree that we support success on the playing fields.”

The four-year average for the programs at the FBS level is 956, the second-lowest of 20 college sports.  The lowest?  The FCS level of football with a 947.

Below are the highest and lowest APR scores for the top seven FBS conferences (membership as of July 1, 2014):

AAC: UCF, 978; Houston, 937
ACC: Duke, 992; North Carolina 938
Big 12: Kansas State, 968; Oklahoma State, 929
Big Ten: Northwestern, 991; Penn State, 954
Mountain West: Boise State and Utah State, 988; UNLV, 925
Pac-12: Stanford, 984; Cal, 938
SEC: Missouri and South Carolina, 980; Tennessee, 932

While the Vols may have the lowest four-year average of the programs in the SEC, UT has undergone a significant academic transformation under Butch Jones, whose focus on the classroom that was vowed last year likely helped his team avoid penalties that could very well have included a postseason ban.  The Vols’ 962 APR for the 2012-13 academic year was the highest one-year mark since the system was implemented nine years ago; last summer, that number was a lowly 924.

And, for those wondering, here’s a handy infographic provided by the NCAA that shows how the annual APR is calculated:

APR Formula

Matt Rhule adds Texas high school coach association president to Baylor football staff

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This is about as smart a move as Matt Rhule can make.

Baylor’s hiring of Rhule was widely hailed as a masterstroke by the scandal-plagued football program; Wednesday, the coach showed the class he will be bringing to Waco.  The biggest negative to the hire?  Rhule has absolutely no ties to the state of Texas as either a coach or a player.

Friday, Rhule began the process of rectifying the deficit in that area by hiring San Antonio Reagan head football coach David Wetzel to be a part of his BU football staff, the Dallas Morning News confirmed.  Wetzel, who played his college football for the Bears, has been a head coach in the state for two decades, and is currently the president of the Texas High School Coaches Association.

Wetzel has been in the San Antonio area for a dozen years.  Prior to that, he was in the Killeen area of Texas.

The News writes that “Wetzel is not expected to be an assistant coach but will serve in another capacity, such as player development.” While he may have been the first, Wetzel certainly won’t be the last Rhule hire with extensive ties to the state.

Nevada makes hiring of Jay Norvell official

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Nevada athletics
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Less than two days after it was initially reported, Nevada has officially landed its man.

The football program confirmed in a press release Friday Jay Norvell has been selected as the Wolf Pack’s new head coach.  Norvell was one of three finalists for the job, the others being Eastern Washington head coach Beau Baldwin and Vanderbilt offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig.

Norvell replaces Brian Polian, who “mutually parted ways” with the football program last month after four seasons. This is Norvell’s first head-coaching job at any level.

“I am thrilled to hire Jay Norvell to serve as our head football coach,” athletic director Doug Knuth said in a statement. “Coach Norvell is known throughout college and NFL football as a man of great character and integrity. He is highly respected for his knowledge of the game and ability to teach his players. He has incredible relationships and an army of friends in high school, college and professional football.

“Lastly, and importantly, Coach Norvell is known for his passion and love for his players. He will set a very high standard for excellence and work tirelessly to achieve our goals academically and athletically. I am excited to watch Coach Norvell build Wolf Pack football into a championship program.”

Norvell just completed his first regular season as an assistant on Todd Graham‘s Arizona State coaching staff.  With the Sun Devils, Norvell served as wide receivers coach and passing game coordinator.

Norvell has spent most of his nearly three decades in coaching at Power Five programs, with stops that included Texas (2015), Oklahoma (2008-14), UCLA (2007), Nebraska (2004-06), Iowa State (1995-97), Wisconsin (1989-94) and Iowa (1986-87).  He also spent six seasons as an assistant in the NFL — 1998-2001 as the wide receivers coach of the Indianapolis Colts, 2002-03 as tight ends coach of the Oakland Raiders.

“I want to thank University president Marc Johnson and Doug Knuth for this tremendous opportunity,” Norvell said. “Our family is humbled and honored to lead the Nevada football program. It is our charge to make this the flagship program of the Mountain West Conference.”

Bovada installs Louisville’s Lamar Jackson as a 1/25 Heisman favorite

LOUISVILLE, KY - NOVEMBER 26:  Lamar Jackson #8 of the Louisville Cardinals runs  for a touchdown during the game against the Kentucky Wildcats at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium on November 26, 2016 in Louisville, Kentucky.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
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Thanks to Louisville bumbling and stumbling its way to two losses to close out the regular season, there were some who thought the race for the Heisman Trophy might be back open after belonging to Lamar Jackson for the majority of the season. While that notion is patently ridiculous, at least one sportsbook is at least considering the far-flung possibility.

Thursday night, Bovada.lv, after a brief shutdown, once again released what will likely be its final set of Heisman odds, with the Cardinals quarterback the overwhelming favorite at 1/25. For you neophyte gamblers in the audience, that means a bettor would need to wager $25 in order to win just $1.

This comes a week and a half after Bovada‘s email release contained the following note where their Heisman odds normally would’ve been: “The Heisman odds are currently off the board as the odds are astronomical in favor for Lamar Jackson. The Oddsmakers are currently in discussions on if they’ll be re-opened.”

The four other finalists, announced over the weekend, were included in Bovada’s latest set of odds.

Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson 7/1
Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield 50/1
Michigan safety Jabrill Peppers 50/1
Oklahoma wide receiver Dede Westbrook 66/1

The 2016 Heisman Trophy will be handed out Saturday night in New York City.

Major Applewhite, not Lane Kiffin, named Houston’s head coach

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Houston athletics
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Here’s a stunner.

The past several days, all the signs seemingly had been pointing to Lane Kiffin as the replacement for Tom Herman at Houston. Instead of the Alabama offensive coordinator, however, the football program shocked some by staying in-house.

Friday morning, athletic director Hunter Yurachek announced that UH offensive coordinator Major Applewhite has been named as his new head football coach. This will be Applewhite’s first head-coaching job at any level.

One thing Yurachek noted was Applewhite’s deep ties to the state of Texas, something that Kiffin lacks.

“When we set out on our search for the new leader of our football program, we wanted a coach with great integrity who believed in our mission and truly believed in our student-athlete experience,” said Yurachek in a statement. “We had our sights set on a focused competitor who has demonstrated success and possesses a deep connection to college and high school football in the great state of Texas. As this process was completed, it was clearly evident the only individual to offer our position to was Major Applewhite and he was indeed the right man to lead our program.”

Applewhite has been UH’s coordinator the past two seasons. Prior to that, nine of his first 11 seasons as a coach were spent in the state of Texas, including two separate stints at the University of Texas.

From 1998-2001, Applewhite was a quarterback for the Longhorns.

“My family and I are excited and honored to have the opportunity to lead such a tradition rich program and continue our lives in one of the greatest cities is the nation, a city we love,” said Applewhite. “The student-athletes truly are the backbone of every great program and as they’ve demonstrated over the past few years, we have an exceptional group of young men in our program, and we’ll continue to add men with great character and a competitive drive in our recruiting.

“Living in the best state for high school football is a true blessing and advantage for our program and I cannot be more thankful for the support of our outstanding high school coaches from throughout the state.”

UH defensive coordinator Todd Orlando, who interviewed for the position as well, had been named as the Cougars interim head coach. Applewhite, however, will coach the team in the Las Vegas Bowl, with Orlando staying on to coordinate the defense. Whether Orlando will remain on after that remains to be seen, although retaining the coordinator will be a priority for the first-time head coach.

Orlando, however, could follow Herman to Texas when it’s all said and done.