With the opportunity to advance to the NCAA Tournament missed by the Stephen F. Austin basketball teams because of the COVID-19 pandemic, along with the cancellation of spring championships, still fresh on their collective minds, the athletics department at the university received more bad news involving three of its major sports programs Tuesday.
The NCAA governing body also banned the football, men’s basketball and baseball programs from any postseason play for one year as the result of findings in the Academic Progress Report (APR).
Lumberjack football will be banned from any postseason games for the 2020 season, the baseball team will not be eligible for any postseason in their 2021 season, while the SFA men’s basketball program requested and was granted a delay in its sanctions until the 2021-22 season. All of these bans include conference postseason tournament play.
Universities that received the postseason bans for poor APR scores have the opportunity to request a delay because of the COVID-19 crisis, according to the NCAA.
A total of 21 teams at 13 schools across the country are being penalized for not meeting minimum academic standards, according to the NCAA release. Fifteen of those schools will be ineligible for postseason.
SFA was not the only men’s basketball program nationally affected for low APR scores. Alabama A&M, Alabama State and Delaware State also face postseason bans, the NCAA stated in their annual release of APR scores, which measures academic achievement and success at graduating players.
Football programs facing postseason ineligibility by the NCAA, in addition to SFA, are Howard, McNeese and Prairie View A&M.
SFA has the only baseball program that received sanctions.
The Lumberjack basketball program gained the most recognition of the three sports this past season, posting a program-best 28-3 overall record, while finishing the regular season ranked No. 26 in the AP national poll. SFA’s most notable win — and arguably the biggest in school history — came on Nov. 26, 2019 when the ‘Jacks defeated then No. 1-ranked Duke, 85-83, in overtime on a last-second layup by Nathan Bains inside Cameron Indoor Stadium in Durham, NC, in its sixth game of the season.
The sanctions, however, did not stem from this year’s program, nor from the 2019-20 academic year for football and baseball, as well, according to SFA Director of Athletics Ryan Ivey.
“Beginning in 2013, an athletics department administrative error in the academic certification process resulted in the miscalculation of SFA’s reported APR scores,” Ivey said in a released statement at midday Tuesday. “Once the administrative error was identified and corrected, the APR scores of these three programs fell below the 930 threshold.
“Procedures are now in place to prevent a reoccurrence of the error.”
According to the NCAA, the APR was first implemented in 2003 as part of an ambitious academic reform effort in Division I. It holds institutions accountable for the academic progress of their student-athletes through a team-based metric that accounts for eligibility and retention of each student-athlete for each academic term.
The sanctions handed down to the three programs came under the Level I APR penalties, which include a reduction in countable practice hours in addition to the one-year postseason ban, Ivey conveyed.
“These four-year cohort APR scores began with the 2015-16 academic year.” Ivey’s statement explained.
The SFA men’s basketball program has made NCAA Tournament appearances four times since 2014, including advancing to the second round in 2014 when the No. 12-seed ‘Jacks knocked off No. 5 VCU, 77-75, in overtime, before falling to No. 4 UCLA, 77-60 in the round of 32.
In 2016, 14th-seeded SFA upset No. 3-seed West Virginia, 70-56, and came within 1.5 seconds of knocking off Notre Dame in the second round before bowing 76-75 on a tip-in by the Fighting Irish. It was the second time in three years that the program advanced to the round of 32.
The SFA football program is coming off a 3-9 record under first-year head coach Colby Carthel, while the baseball team has been under the direction of Johnny Cardenas for the past 12 seasons, with a cumulative record of 292-343. The ‘Jacks were 6-10 on the year and 3-0 in Southland Conference play this past season before the campaign was halted by the COVID-19 pandemic in mid-March when the NCAA canceled all remaining games and spring championships.
Ivey went on to state that the SFA athletics department has been focused on academic progress and is proud of its current student-athletes, who collectively earned a 3.21 GPA for the spring 2020 semester.