An Oklahoma State insider told of how Mike Gundy had finally wrapped his head — and arms — around the importance of APR (Academic Progress Rate) to his program.
And the proof is in OSU’s improved numbers over the past two recorded years.
The rally, however, came up just a bit shy, resulting in an NCAA-imposed penalty loss of practice time and an available day to practice for Gundy and his staff.
And it leads to a fall in which Cowboys coaches will be forced to adjust to practice limitations at a time when the roster will roll over to younger talent in need of added instruction.
How much is a bit shy? The slimmest of margins shy.
The APR is a metric based on two factors for each scholarship athlete per term: eligibility (1 point) and retention (1 point). So athletes can earn as many as four points for their program in any given year.
OSU needed but one more point, in either category of eligibility or retention, over the four-year span of 2009-10 to 2012-13 to remain on the positive side of the APR.
Or one more player among hundreds making his grades. Or one more player among hundreds remaining on the team.
Of course, they didn’t get that point. And while the NCAA went light on the Cowboys based on consecutive years of improved APR scores, imposing a two-hour practice reduction instead of the standard four-hour penalty, Gundy and Co. still must adjust.
*Coaches are slaves to routine, hating to budge one bit for fear that it will throw a team’s complete mojo off track. And routine is a Gundy ball-and-chain. OSU’s routine must change.
*Two hours of practice doesn’t sound like much. And Gundy said that his teams have tended to utilize just 19 of their allotted 20 hours anyway in recent seasons. But this goes beyond the hours. The NCAA mandates that teams give their players a full day off. Now the Cowboys must give two days off. And that means from anything associated with athletic activity, including weight lifting, film study, position meetings … everything. That’s significant.
*During any given game week, the Cowboys would use Sunday as a light day, yet still get in weight work and film study and a short on-field practice. They would use Monday as their off day, get in heavier practices Tuesday and Wednesday, then back off Thursday and use Friday for walk-through only. Even if the coaching staff compresses the practice schedule, there will be a lot crammed into fewer days.
*One of Gundy’s selling points, to his own players and to recruits and to the media, is the thought that crisper, shorter practices are more productive and less taxing on his team during the week and over the long haul. Former offensive coordinator Todd Monken once said that Gundy is so rigid to his schedule that when Monken asked for extra practice time to implement new wrinkles, he was told to fit them in the regular window or forget it. Will Gundy remain so staunch in his beliefs, or go against his own grain?
*The timing is bad. If this had happened to last year’s team, which was loaded with seniors and veterans who had played a lot of football, the adjustment would have been minimized. These Cowboys are rebuilding on the offensive line and all across the defense, with unproven players already on the spot. Those guys need more instruction, not less.
So OSU has learned the power of one.
With one more point over the span of four years, it would have been business as usual in Stillwater.
Instead, the Cowboys are on the clock — to find a way to adjust.