Savannah State AD: School seeing results with APR scores; Football team to return to spring practice in 2017
Football team to return to spring practice in 2017
The Savannah State football team will be able to hold 10 spring practices and a spring game next season for the first time in three years, but the men’s basketball team will be ineligible for the 2016-17 postseason as a result of NCAA sanctions handed down to the university last week.
The sanctions stem from the latest Academic Progress Rate scores for the 2014-15 academic year, which were released Wednesday by the NCAA. The APR is based on data collected annually from each institution and accounts for the eligibility and retention of every student-athlete for each academic term.
The football team posted a 2014-15 APR of 918, which is 51 points higher than the previous year and raises SSU’s multi-year APR from 854 to 866. The multi-year APR is the average APR a school posts over a four-year period. Each team at a university must earn a multi-year APR of 930 to avoid penalties.
The APR report released by the NCAA states that the Tigers would face being banned from a third straight spring season, but a Savannah State spokesman said Monday that penalty was waived as a reward for the progress the school has made.
The football team still will ineligible for the postseason for the fourth straight season, and regular-season practice will still be limited to 16 hours over five days per week, including games, as it was last season.
According to the APR report, SSU has requested a penalty waiver for its men’s basketball team, which is pending. The hoops squad will play three less regular-season games and have its regular-season practice hours reduced the same amount as the football team.
For the 2015-16 season, the men’s basketball team already was under a Level 1 penalty that reduced its practice hours, but the Tigers made a late-season run to enter the MEAC Tournament as a fifth seed and won two games before losing in the tournament semifinals.
That won’t be a possibility in 2017 with the latest postseason ban. But the team posted a 2014-15 APR of 867, 59 points better than 2013-14, giving it a multi-year APR of 892.
The women’s basketball team posted an APR of 1,000 — the highest score that can be achieved — just three years removed from a Level 1 penalty. The Lady Tigers had a multi-year APR of 853 in 2013 and have raised that number to 952 with the latest scores.
The baseball team had a 956 APR for 2014-15, the men’s golf team scored a perfect 1,000, and the men’s track and field team scored 965, and women’s track, softball and volleyball each scored 1,000. Women’s tennis scored 917.
“I would ask individuals to look at the whole story instead of a snapshot,” said Savannah State athletic director Sterling Steward. “We’ve made improvements with both (football and basketball). We are seeing results.”
Steward said dealing with player transfers is a constant obstacle for Savannah State to overcome, and they have a severe impact on the school’s APR scores. If a player transfers with a grade-point average below 2.65 and they don’t transfer to another four-year school, SSU loses points on its APR, Steward said.
For football, SSU sees a lot of transfers because of the high rate of turnover with head coaches. The school recently hired Erik Raeburn to replace the departed Earnest Wilson III, who was the first coach since 1986 to stay three seasons at SSU.
“When you change coaches as frequently as we have in the past, that’s a direct correlation to kids going elsewhere,” Steward said.
The latest sanctions on the men’s basketball team didn’t come as a surprise, he said, after the fallout of several players deciding to transfer to junior colleges rather than accept disciplinary actions handed down by head coach Horace Broadnax. Steward would not comment on whether the players violated team rules to warrant those disciplinary actions.
“We had some player issues that the coach and I discussed,” Steward said. “He was in high integrity in making some difficult decisions that he knew would affect the APR. I supported him 100 percent.”
The majority of the list of schools that received penalties for failing APR scores is once again comprised of historically black universities, three of which — Florida A&M, Howard and Morgan State — compete against SSU in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference. The other programs are Alabama State, Alcorn State, Southern University and Virginia Military Institute.
As Steward looks to get the penalties lifted, he said getting as many student-athletes into classes over the summer will be paramount.
“You look at Georgia, Georgia Southern, they have all of their student-athletes going to summer school,” Steward said.
Summer classes are a time when student-athletes can put all of their focus on academics without distraction, and it helps them avoid getting off to slow starts during the fall semester, Steward added.
“If they go to summer school, they’re able to get ahead and have better grades,” he said.
“If we get every kid in summer school, we get out of these penalties immediately.”
The problem is, athletic scholarships only cover tuition for the fall and spring semesters, which means SSU must foot the bill for student-athletes to attend summer classes, and the school doesn’t have enough money for all of them, Steward said.
Last year, SSU paid for about 70 athletes to complete summer courses, with the priority being placed on those who are struggling to maintain their eligibility.
SSU Football Team APR
Academic year|APR|Mult-year APR|Penalties
2011-12|854|876|Level 1, practice reduction, no postseason
2012-13|845|846|Level 2, practice reduction, no spring, no postseason
2013-14|867|857|Level 3, practice reduction, no spring, no postseason, scholarship reduction
2014-15|918|866|Level 3, practice reduction, no spring*, no postseason
*Penalty has been waived by the NCAA, according to an SSU spokesperson
SSU Men’s Baskeball Team APR
Academic year|APR|Multi-year APR|Penalties
2011-12|892|898|Level 1, practice reduction
2013-14|808|914|Level 1, practice reduction
2014-15|867|892|Level 2*, practice reduction, no postseason, contest reduction
*Penalty waiver request is pending