STILLWATER — Mike Gundy owes someone from his athletic department a thank you card. A big hug. Maybe a raise.
It’s unknown exactly how the Oklahoma State football coach plans to reward one staffer’s discovery that led to an otherwise unexpected NCAA announcement Tuesday. What’s easy to guess was Gundy’s reaction to the news — a sigh of relief.
An NCAA-issued penalty against the OSU football program that would have removed two hours of practice time each week this season has been lifted, a team spokesman confirmed Tuesday.
The punishment was handed out in May as a response to the team failing to meet Academic Progress Rate standards over the past four years. The Cowboys scored 929.41 in that span, just shy of the minimum 930.
However, the penalty was lifted Tuesday after the OSU athletic department announced an error had been made in its initial academic reports sent to the NCAA back in October.
About a month ago, an athletic department staff member identified a 1990s-era football player who had recently graduated from the university who was not included in department’s original academic report. Because that player — who has yet to be identified by the athletic department — graduated within the past four years, it added a point to OSU’s APR score to meet the NCAA’s minimum requirement.
Kevin Fite, senior associate athletic director for compliance, said a “records-keeping issue” prevented the department from including the graduated player in its previous report to the NCAA.
“Our institutional system doesn’t flag former student athletes from certain points back, I think it’s 1999,” Fite said. “We don’t have available to us complete records prior to that … A staff member, who has been here a long time, saw a graduation roll and said, ‘Hey, that guy’s a football player.’ We were able to go to our bursar’s office and determined he was on aid. And we basically catch an extra point.”
The APR is a sport-based metric based on two factors for each scholarship athlete per term: eligibility (1 point) and retention (1 point). Athletes can earn as many four points for their program in any given year, according to the NCAA.
“Throughout this process the NCAA has been committed to having complete and accurate data,” Fite said in a news release. “We were provided a great deal of assistance in ensuring the information we were evaluated on accurately reflected our football team’s academic performance, based on APR standards. When the additional point was discovered earlier this summer, the NCAA staff promptly re-evaluated our situation and added the point, which took us out of the penalty range.”
OSU coach Mike Gundy discussed the practice penalty at length last week during Big 12 Media Days in Dallas, saying he would “have to change what I do and I don’t like that more than anything.”
The punishment would have cut the Cowboys’ allotted weekly practice time from 19 hours and 15 minutes to 18 hours, Gundy said. The maximum amount of available practice time is 20 hours per week, according to the NCAA.
Gundy said the team would have likely eliminated Sunday activities as a result, because they usually consist of walk-throughs and film study of next week’s opponent.
Now, Gundy can stick to his normal routine. That’s good news for the Cowboys, whose lack of experience at several position groups — including linebacker, safety and offensive line — was cause for concern when the penalty was first announced.
“We definitely need the preparation,” said Ryan Simmons, projected starting middle linebacker, last week at Big 12 Media Days. “We need that day … we just have to make sure we hold ourselves accountable and learn as much as we can each and every week.”
OSU Athletic Director Mike Holder also reacted to the NCAA’s decision in a news release.
“We are very thankful for the cooperation of the NCAA staff during this process and we appreciate their focus on the accuracy of the data,” Holder said. “We are also thankful that we received a speedy resolution. In the long term, this process will be a positive thing for our athletic department because nothing is more important to us than playing by the rules and graduating our student-athletes. This has caused us to re-examine how we monitor the APR and make some positive changes.”