Friday, May 16, 2014

Aggie football loses practice time due to APR score

The New Mexico State Aggie football team was penalized for a low APR score, and as a result will lose four hours of practice time - or one day - per week during the 2014 season.

The APR is a tool the NCAA uses to measure the number of athletes who graduate. Each athlete is worth two points toward the APR score per semester: one point for retention/graduation and one point if a player is academically eligible. If a player transfers and is not eligible, that player counts two points against the APR score as well.

Aggie football had a four-year average of 915 (between the 2009-10 and 2012-13 academic years) and a single-year average of 907. The NCAA requires a score of 930 or the risk of possible sanctions.

Thirty six NCAA athletic programs will face some sort of APR penalty this fall, four of which will be FBS football programs. Idaho and UNLV are banned from postseason play in 2014, while Oklahoma State and NMSU suffered a reduction in practice time.

First off, I think a reduction in practice time can in fact be worked around. Certainly it will take some creativity on the coaching staff's part, and head coach Doug Martin said Friday's walk through sessions will now be moved to Saturday's typical gameday routine - which already counts for three hours of the allotted 20 hours of practice time per week. One would figure some meeting time and film work could also be shaved here and there as well, and players can still put in work away from a coach's supervision - throwing on the side, for instance, or extra film study. These things do not count towards a team's allotted practice schedule.

One thing that should be said: it's not abnormal for a football program like NMSU's - and many others in the country for that matter - to take some academic risks when recruiting student-athletes.

It's a fine line. Of course, a program would like to have both - good academics and a winning record all at once. But pulling off such a feat is easier said than done.

While there are plenty of college football players who may not be academic scholars, they can also help a team win a game or two on its schedule. Plenty of programs would take that risk if it beefs up their overall win record.

Martin - who's entering his second year as head coach at NMSU - has often said the program will move away from junior college transfers and recruit four-year high school players, in part because of academic performance. Time will tell if such an approach produces positive results simultaneously, on the field and in the classroom.

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