NCAA gives ETSU track team postseason ban

Joe Avento • May 14, 2014 at 9:14 PM

The East Tennessee State men’s indoor track and field team will not be allowed to participate in the postseason next year after it came up short on the NCAA’s Academic Progress Rate, released Wednesday.

Thirty-six Division I teams across the country failed to meet the minimum requirements established by the NCAA and will be banned from postseason play.

The APR, in its 10th year, is the NCAA’s way of measuring academic success for each team. Each scholarship athlete receives one point for remaining eligible and one point for staying in school or graduating. That total is divided by the total possible points and multiplied by 1,000. A perfect score is 1,000. Teams need to hit 930 to avoid sanctions.

The ETSU men’s indoor track team scored 924. The outdoor team just made it, scoring 930 on the head. ETSU had five teams reach 990 or better.

The recent report tracked the 2012-13 academic year. ETSU Athletic Director Richard Sander said the track team’s problems were worsened by the coaching transition when the late Dave Walker retired as the head coach and George Watts was hired. Although some track athletes were declared ineligible, Sander said the retention portion of the equation hurt ETSU.

“In the transition of coaches, we had some kids that left because we had a new coach,” Sander said. “A lot of these track athletes are on real small scholarships. When they leave, that impacts your APR. Because of that, we came under the 930.

“A lot of that comes from the transition of coaches. There was nobody there to oversee that stuff. Some things fell through the cracks.”

It wasn’t only the athletes leaving that caused the number to drop. Sander said about 65 percent could be attributed to the coaching change and 35 percent was because of athletes “who came up short academically.”

The school has drafted a plan to fix the problem, including offering less “small scholarships” so that athletes on scholarship will have more to lose if they don’t follow the program.

“We’ve put together a remediation plan and have done all kinds of things to deal with that,” Sander said. “We’re being more careful about who we are giving athletic scholarships to. We are much more carefully making sure they are motivated to achieve academically, that they want to be here. We’re not going to give marginal students scholarships.

“I think there’s more stability from the coaching aspect. Coach Watts is here and we’re a lot more focused to make sure we get that number back up. I’m sure we can.”

ETSU’s 296 student-athletes had an average GPA of 3.21. About 70 percent made 3.0 or better and 36 have 4.0 GPAs.

“Overall, I think our student-athletes do very well,” Sander said.

The athletic department has an academic support department to assist each athlete in staying eligible and on track for graduating. A comprehensive academic mentoring program is part of the department.

“We put a lot of time and effort and resources into it,” Sander said. “For the most part, anybody who wants to succeed academically, because of the resources available, pretty much should be able to. In a lot of cases, when a student-athlete doesn’t succeed academically, it’s because they haven’t followed the plan we have developed for them.

“This is not what we want, but on the other hand maybe it will open the eyes of some folks. We need to do what we need to do. And we’re committed to getting this thing done.”

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