Stephen F. Austin forced to vacate wins, conference titles after lack of institutional control ruling

By Kelly Guess

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UPDATE (May 20): Stephen F. Austin has accepted major Level One penalties from the NCAA – including fines, vacated wins and vacated championships – after lack of institutional control in improperly certifying ineligible athletes for competition from 2013 to 2019. 

The NCAA declared 82 student-athletes in nine sports ineligible. As part of the punishments, SFA will vacate wins that involved an ineligible athlete, which include 29 football victories from 2013-19, 117 men’s basketball victories from 2014-19, 112 baseball victories from 2015-19, 31 softball victories from 2018 and adjusted scores in women’s golf, women’s track and field, men’s cross country and men’s track and field.

Additionally, SFA men’s basketball must vacate its Southland conference championships from 2015, 2016 and 2018 and NCAA Tournament win in 2016. All banners commemorating the victories will be removed from Johnson Coliseum. 

Football will undergo a 2.5 percent reduction in scholarships over the next two seasons, while basketball loses one scholarship in one of the next years. Baseball will lose 5 percent of its scholarships in one of the next two seasons. 

SFA must pay a fine of $5,000, plus 0.5 percent of the budgets of both football and men’s basketball and half the money it received for participating in the 2016 NCAA Tournament. The school will also be on probation for three years and receive a public reprimand. 

SFA did not dispute the wrongdoing by the NCAA, claiming that a clerical error was responsible for the mistake in a release from athletic director Ryan Ivey. According to the release, former personnel mistakenly counted semester credit hours to determine eligibility instead of just degree-applicable credits, per NCAA rules. 

Ivey felt a Negotiated Settlement was the quickest way to resolve the matter, while also impacting future seasons as little as possible so the university could move past it. 

“This route saved the university time and financial resources, but most importantly, lessened the risk of more severe penalties if the university had opted to proceed through the traditional infractions process,” Ivey wrote.

With the adjustments to eligibility, football and men’s basketball both posted failing APR scores over the last evaluated period. Football will have a postseason ban in 2020, while basketball will serve a postseason ban in 2021-22.

Original Story (May 19): Three athletic teams at Stephen F. Austin State University, including football, will face significant penalties from the NCAA for failing to maintain an adequate Academic Progress Rate (APR) score. 

Football, men’s basketball and baseball will each face a postseason ban and have Level One penalties – the most serious – leveled against the program. The football and baseball teams will serve their postseason ban during the 2020-21 season, which basketball will defer its penalty until 2021-22. 

In addition, all three programs will all face in-season practice limitations. Athletes will only be allowed five days and 16 hours of countable activity per week, down from the usual six days and 20 hours per week. The penalties are considered Level One, which are the most serious sanctions available to the NCAA.

Athletic programs are required to maintain a 930 APR score to avoid penalties. Basketball had the lowest score of the group at 810, while football landed at 894 and baseball at 918. The score takes into account the four-year stretch between 2015-16 and 2018-19; a 930 APR score represents approximately a 50 percent graduation rate. 

“Beginning in 2013, an athletic department administrative error in the academic certification process resulted in the miscalculation of SFA’s reported APR scores,” said SFA athletic director Ryan Ivey in a statement. “Once the administrative error was identified and corrected, the APR scores of these three programs fell below the 930 threshold. Procedures are now in place to prevent a recurrence of the error. 

“The athletic department has been focused on academic progress and is proud of its current athletes who collectively earned a 3.21 GPA for the spring semester.” 

Stephen F. Austin and Alabama A&M are the only Division I programs to have three programs fail to meet APR standards. 

Prairie View A&M football will also face a postseason ban in 2020-21.

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