WSU football docked 8 scholarships for poor academic record
Deficiencies in the NCAA's annual Academic Progress Rate statistics means Washington State's football program will be assessed a total loss of eight scholarships, compared to the NCAA limit of 85.
Seattle Times staff reporter
The bill came due Tuesday for the attrition in the football regime of Washington State coach Bill Doba, and it was considerable.
Deficiencies in the NCAA's annual Academic Progress Rate statistics means Washington State will be assessed a total loss of eight scholarships in the program, compared to the NCAA limit of 85.
"It definitely hurts, but I don't think it's a death sentence," said Doba from Pullman, where he is selling his home after announcing his retirement following the 2007 season.
The APR report, released Tuesday by the NCAA, shows 17 Football Bowl Subdivision — formerly Division I-A — schools facing sanctions of some kind. But only Idaho (also eight) and Akron (nine) equaled the scholarship hit taken by the Cougars.
While the NCAA report shows WSU diminished by eight scholarships, and a ceiling of 22 initial signees (the NCAA limit is 25), WSU coach Paul Wulff said the Cougars, accepting the sanction, applied part of the penalty this academic year, including the one on initial scholarships. He said WSU will play with 79 available scholarships in the fall and have a possible 25 more signees next February, with the NCAA-allowed 85 possible for 2009-10.
"I'm not really experienced with it, to be honest," said Wulff, in Phoenix for Pac-10 meetings. "It's going to be a little bit of a hit this year, but as we move forward to year two, three, four and five, I think it'll clearly go away. We're recruiting juniors right now, soon to be seniors, and by the time they'd sign with us and show up on campus, the penalty should be out of the system."
WSU was the only Pac-10 school penalized in football. USC basketball suffered a two-scholarship reduction (to 11 overall), which it served this academic year.
The APR formula rewards schools on the basis of eligibility, retention and graduation. A 925 score in a given sport equates to roughly a 60-percent graduation rate.
WSU football scored a 916 on the four-year, rolling calculation — not by itself a crippling blow — but the school said its 874 score for 2006-07 spoiled the four-year average, and it was problematic in that multiple athletes left the program ineligible. By contrast, for instance, an athlete who leaves a school for a professional league before graduating doesn't count as severely if he departs in good academic standing.
In a WSU release, athletic director Jim Sterk said in part, "The most recent APR score for our football program for last year is not acceptable." He added that Doba's successor, Wulff, "was aware of our situation" during the interview process "and assured us academic accountability would be a priority under his direction. While at Eastern Washington, coach Wulff's program recorded a multi-year APR score of 944 over the most recent three-year period."
As Doba tells it, the Cougars' best moment might have planted the seed for their academic problems. A heavy underdog, they beat Texas in the 2003 Holiday Bowl in what some consider the program's best victory ever.
"We might have gotten a little too big for our britches when we beat Texas," Doba said. "We had some pretty good kids visit us that were interested. But then we lost them to the Southern Cals, and when you go back on the twos [second-line recruits], they were committed.
"We took some kids late that we really didn't have time to investigate, and we had a few kids that lacked a little character and got in trouble. You either keep them around, or get rid of the kids that made mistakes, and we decided to get rid of a couple of them that weren't doing what we asked them to do."
An analysis by The Times in mid-October last season studied the Cougars' problems with eligibility and retention. Of 53 high-school recruits in Doba's first three signing classes (2003-05), 22 failed to put in four years at WSU. Between the end of the 2006 season and the start of 2007, the roster was thinned by eight academic casualties.
Doba said he believes WSU's academic-support system is "really good. We just happened to hit a bad string."
Wulff, meanwhile, has to hope the bad news is already in. His counterpart at Idaho, ex-Cougars assistant Robb Akey, questioned the APR last fall, noting that it hamstrings a first-year coach who might encounter disciplinary problems upon taking over a program but might not take action because of the long-term impact of a low APR.
Akey said 15 scholarship players either were booted from the team or quit from the time of his appointment after the 2006 season until the end of the school year, one for selling drugs, three others "who elected to pull a little scam over at the bookstore."
WSU spokesman Bill Stevens said the school has 56 players on scholarship currently, with 23 due to enroll in the fall. Wulff said he thinks he has 18 seniors-to-be on scholarship, so with no other attrition besides graduation, WSU would have roughly 60 or 61 scholarship players a year from now before its incoming class in 2009.
Asked if this is a cautionary tale, Wulff said, "It just goes back to philosophy — how you want to recruit, what you can trust as a coach. You do the best you can, to find the kids who are going to be able to compete athletically and academically. It's not an exact science. Hopefully, you've done your homework."
Bud Withers: 206-464-8281 or firstname.lastname@example.org
|Making the grade|
|Stanford led Pac-10 football programs with an APR score of 986. Oregon, Washington State and Arizona were each under the cutoff mark of 925. Oregon and Arizona were not penalized either because they had no athletes leave school while they were academically ineligible or they were granted a waiver by the NCAA.|
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