The final score read 96-0, and many in the college football world reacted with curiosity. Was this a case of a good NCAA Division II team playing a bad NAIA team? Did UTPB run up the score in its head coach’s debut game to ‘make a statement,’ or did Texas College provide plenty of assistance to the margin of defeat with poor execution that led to turnovers and mistakes?
The answer combines everything above and one more significant issue - Texas College had 25 players pulled off the bus just before departing Tyler en route to Odessa.
We’ll visit the final issue in a minute, but addressing the other questions above is essential. The Falcons are a good team and were trying to make a statement against the Steers, who are in year two of a total rebuild under head coach Jarrail Jackson. However, every healthy UTPB player dressed out for the game played in the contest, including 16 true freshmen.
The Steers didn’t help themselves much in the contest either, throwing two pick-sixes amidst four turnovers. The Falcons starters were removed at halftime, leading 56-0. The remainder of UTPB’s roster accounted for the final 42 points, with the Steers gifting three turnovers and having one possession end on downs.
Texas College played 23 players, including three freshmen offensive linemen. That wasn’t by design, which leads us to the last point. Why did the Steers have 25 players pulled off the bus?
According to sources, the players weren’t certified with the NAIA on time. At least 12 players removed from the bus were starters, while the remaining were on TC’s two-deep roster.
Unfortunately, players being pulled off the bus before their season opener is not uncommon in the Non-FBS world. Stephen F. Austin experienced a similar incident before leaving to play Baylor in head coach Colby Carthel’s debut with the ‘Jacks.
In that situation, an error by an administrator in the ‘Jacks athletic department resulted in a miscalculation of SFA’s reported APR scores. That eventually led SFA to accept Level One penalties. The football program lost 2.5 percent of its scholarships for two seasons and one-half percent of its budget, along with a three-year probation and a public reprimand.
What happened to TC won’t result in penalties that severe, but steps should be taken to ensure this doesn’t happen to another student-athlete. It’s more discouraging after sources indicate the same situation occurred to 10 Steers players before they stepped on the bus to play at Arkansas Baptist last year.
Surprisingly, we don’t see this same situation more often in NAIA. Wayland Baptist is the only school with a person dedicated to serving as an eligibility and compliance coordinator. The Steers compliance coordinator doubles as the men’s basketball coach. SAGU also has its men’s basketball coach serve as compliance director. The head women’s golf coach is the compliance director for Texas Wesleyan.
Ideally, compliance would be the sole focus for at least one full-time person. Unfortunately, budgets don’t allow that to happen at most schools below the FCS level. Having coaches of other sports responsible for the certification of every athlete in the department seems like a recipe for disaster. Inevitably, their focus will shift to their roster first.
It also helps if the coach responsible for a team and compliance works a standard year-around contract. Sources indicate this is different at Texas College. Regardless, more needs to be done to ensure players are certified because it’s the right thing to do for the student-athlete, and that should always be an institution’s first focus.
This article is available to our Digital Subscribers.
Click "Subscribe Now" to see a list of subscription offers.
Already a Subscriber? Sign In to access this content.