Report will cost football team five scholarships

Josh Johnston

No other Kent State team will be affected

The Kent State football team will have five of its scholarships docked for the 2009 season, according to the NCAA’s Academic Rate Public Report released Wednesday.

The team scored 919 points out of a possible 1,000 in the fifth annual report, which determines scores based on graduation rates, eligibility and retention of scholarship athletes over four years.

A score of less than 925 combined with a student-athlete leaving the school academically ineligible warrants immediate penalties from the NCAA, according to a press release.

“It’s a snapshot,” said Laing Kennedy, Kent State director of athletics, of this year’s score. “It’s not a trend. Our graduation rate in football is 78 percent, which is at or near the highest in the conference.”

Kennedy and Kent State football coach Doug Martin said the penalties were expected, and the two had planned ahead to limit the impact of the docking.

“We knew this was coming maybe two years ago,” Kennedy said, “and so in terms of (whether) it hurts our program, it doesn’t because we were able to do it over two years. It has no impact on our incoming classes. We’ve been able to minimize what concerns we would have had to the point where it really hasn’t affected our program.”

This year, the NCAA dealt immediate penalties to 104 teams nationally. In the Mid-American Conference, Buffalo’s and Bowling Green’s football teams and Ball State’s men’s basketball team also lost scholarships because of low APR scores.

Martin called the APR unfair, saying the score is not an accurate portrayal of a team’s academic performance.

“The reason our APR is low,” Martin said, “is because we’ve had players who have transferred who weren’t good enough to play here or for disciplinary reasons we’ve dismissed players from the team. You get penalized for that, which is really unfair.”

Martin said the demands of the APR conflict with his role as a disciplinarian to the football team. When a player is stripped of his scholarship because of poor conduct, the team’s score falls, which, Martin said, is what has caused the APR problems.

“You have to make up your mind whether you’re going to continue to be a disciplinarian head coach, or you’re just going to have to let things slide just because of the APR,” he said. “We have made a conscious decision that we are going to run a clean program, and our players are going to be held to the highest standard character-wise.

“We’re not going to let the APR dictate whether we can discipline players by having to forfeit their scholarships.”

The NCAA has penalized Kent State before because of low APR scores. In 2006, the men’s basketball team lost two scholarships after receiving a score of 911. Kent State was one of 17 Division I basketball teams and the only MAC team to be docked scholarships that year.

Overall, Kent State’s athletic department has made “significant progress” with APR scores, Kennedy said. The women’s cross country team and women’s golf team received public recognition by the NCAA by earning perfect 1,000 scores. The baseball team earned a 975 APR, nearly 30 points higher than the national average.

While the men’s basketball team has improved its score by 18 points since 2006, it hovers just four points above the 925-point watermark.

Contact sports reporter Josh Johnston at [email protected]