It took the much-maligned UNLV football team 13 years to get back to a bowl game, with the Rebels finally breaking through by posting a 7-5 regular-season record last season to reach the Heart of Dallas Bowl, where they lost to North Texas, 36-14. There won’t be an opportunity for Coach Bobby Hauck’s team to earn back-to-back bowl appearances.
As reported by the Review-Journal’s Mark Anderson last week, the NCAA rejected UNLV’s appeal of its Academic Progress Rate, meaning the Rebels face a postseason ban next season, among other penalties. The football team’s APR was 925 over the past four years, just shy of the 930 required by the NCAA.
For a program finally climbing out of the muck — UNLV mustered just two wins in seven of the previous nine seasons, and five wins was the high-water mark — the penalty is a death blow. In fact, Athletic Director Tina Kunzer-Murphy, though prepared for the news, compared it with such an outcome. “You know it’s coming, but when the call comes, it was still devastating,” she said. “It was devastating because I really thought that we had a chance.”
With the hard-line NCAA, that chance is usually slim, and even more so for schools with smaller athletic department budgets, as Review-Journal columnist Ed Graney noted. “There are ways you can manipulate the process, and more often than not, those athletic departments with the biggest budgets win the APR game,” Mr. Graney opined last week.
There is likely truth in that, but the fact of the matter is that it’s not enough to win games. The fundamental requirement of an athletic scholarship is for the athlete to go to class and perform reasonably well academically. Coach Hauck insists much work has been done toward that requirement in his first four seasons, and while there is likely truth in that, too, more work needs to be done. The NCAA has given the Rebels no choice but to do it.