Southern University is back on NCAA probation.
Less than a year after all its athletic programs were reinstated from a two-year postseason ban, every program except men’s basketball and tennis faces a postseason ban for the 2016-17 academic year as part of academic-related sanctions released by the NCAA on Wednesday.
A total of 11 programs — including football, baseball and women’s basketball — are affected. In addition to the postseason ban, they face reductions in practice time during the season and out of season.
It’s the third time since 2011 that Southern has faced NCAA sanctions related to student-athletes’ Academic Progress Rates.
Since 2003, the NCAA has evaluated member institutions’ athletic programs on their athletes’ grades, their progress toward a degree and the program’s retention and graduation rates. Teams failing to meet the NCAA standard can face a variety of penalties.
The Jaguars football and men’s basketball teams were ineligible for the postseason in the 2011-12 academic year because their APR scores fell short of the NCAA standard.
In 2013, the NCAA placed all Southern programs on probation because the university supplied unusable data that made it impossible to verify the APR numbers.
After a year and a half of the university correcting as much of the unusable data as it could, all the Jaguars teams were reinstated last May. But the NCAA released its annual APR report Wednesday, and Southern was found lacking, in part because of the lingering effects of the unusable data.
The NCAA evaluation is based on data from the last four years for which it is available. The report issued Wednesday is for data from the 2011-12, 2012-13, 2013-14, 2014-15 academic years — the first two of which are still tainted by unusable data.
“This isn’t unexpected,” said interim athletic director Roman Banks, who is also the men’s basketball coach. “We knew some of our programs were in jeopardy. Our hope is that we just have to fight through one more year of this.”
Southern was unable to correct all the unusable data. The data that remained led to lower scores because evidence of some athletes’ academic progress couldn’t be verified. Additionally, several athletes transferred because of the postseason ban. Because they left before they completed their eligibility or their degree, that too had a negative impact on the APR scores.
The Jaguars are hopeful that the unusable data’s impact on next year’s scores will be negligible. The unusable data from 2011-12 won’t be included in next year’s four-year window and will be replaced by data from this academic year. Banks said projections are for improved numbers in 2015-16.
Banks said he hopes the expectation for significantly improved APR scores next year will convince current student-athletes to stay.
Southern faces “Level Three” penalties, the most severe APR penalties imposed by the NCAA, because of the recurrence of the shortcomings.
Level One penalties are in-season limits of five days and 16 hours of participation for athletes, which is designed to allow them more time to spend on academics.
In addition to the Level One penalties, Level Two penalties include out-of-season limitations. The football program has been unable to hold spring practice of the past two years because of previous sanctions, and it will be unable to do so again in 2017.
Along those same lines, the women’s soccer and volleyball teams will be unable to have spring practice, and the softball team will have to give up fall practice. The other sanctioned programs face a 10 percent reduction in games or matches scheduled next season.
Level Three penalties include those from levels one and two as well as the postseason ban.
The Jaguars baseball team already was facing a postseason ban for this season for falling short of the NCAA requirement of a 930 APR score.
Scores for the programs on probation for the most recent four-year period range from a high of 892 for the women’s soccer team and a low of 620 for the women’s cross country team.
Only three other universities had programs subjected to Level Three penalties. Florida A&M and Savannah State each had three teams affected, and Alcorn State, one of Southern’s rivals in the Southwestern Athletic Conference, saw Level Three penalties placed on its men’s basketball team.
Banks was the only Southern representative to comment on Wednesday’s development. The other coaches were told not to comment, and Southern President and Chancellor Ray Belton was unavailable.
Though the APR shortcomings have been a regular occurrence, Banks said he’s confident that once the unusable data is no longer factored into the four-year scores, Southern will be in much better shape.
After the 2013 sanctions were instituted, the NCAA guided the university through an evaluation of its record-keeping procedures as well as its institution-wide coordination of data.
That led to a new system for recording and reporting data that’s in compliance with NCAA expectations. The NCAA’s satisfaction with the new system was a key factor in the previous ban being lifted last May.
In the past eight months, Banks said, Southern has hired two new compliance officers and two new academic advisers for the athletic department.
He added that the university has formed “a certified team of deans and instructors” that is working with the athletic department to ensure adequate documentation of academic progress by student-athletes.
“I think we’re in a good place right now,” Banks said.
Follow Les East on Twitter, @EastAdvocate.