Academic woes, postseason bans taking heavy toll on SWAC

August 30, 2011


— The academic failures of Southwestern Athletic Conference schools have crippled some of the league’s most popular, money-making programs heading into the football season.

Three SWAC schools — Jackson State, Southern and Grambling — have received postseason bans in either football or men’s basketball for failing to meet the NCAA’s Academic Progress Rate standards. The APR is the NCAA’s gauge for academic performance, awarding points for academic eligibility and retention.

Southern became the first school banned from the postseason in both football and basketball for APR issues.

Administrators, coaches and players say the embarrassing situation must change, and change quickly in the SWAC, which is comprised of predominantly Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

It won’t be easy. Over the past few decades, much of the success and notoriety has faded for these HBCUs — which have produced football giants like Jerry Rice, Walter Payton and Eddie Robinson. The reasons are many and sometimes complicated, including a lack of financial resources and integration.

Southern football coach Stump Mitchell said none of that matters.

“One thing I know that the NCAA doesn’t want to hear about is a lack of resources, we can’t do this or we can’t do that,” Mitchell said. “We’ve got to figure out a way to get this done.”

But the reality for these cash-strapped schools is the postseason bans are another harsh setback. Jackson State and Southern will miss the football postseason while Southern and Grambling will miss the men’s basketball postseason. All three schools have also lost scholarships and practice time. The three programs are arguably the most popular and successful in the 10-team league, with passionate fan bases that often travel well.

Nonetheless, the SWAC’s presidents took the NCAA’s ban a step further in hopes their efforts will turn a short-term loss into a permanent solution.

Since the SWAC doesn’t compete in the NCAA’s Football Championship Subdivision playoffs, the league presidents extended the NCAA’s ban to the conference championship game. The SWAC’s presidents also voted to ban Southern and Grambling from the conference basketball tournament. That policy will extend to any other teams that are banned by the NCAA in the future.

SWAC Commissioner Duer Sharp said the decision wasn’t difficult.


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