Montana State Football Could Lose Scholarships

By Beacon Staff

BOZEMAN (AP) – The Montana State football program’s continuing failure to meet NCAA academic standards could cost the team practice time in addition to scholarships when penalties for the 2006-07 school year are handed out, officials said.

But athletics director Peter Fields said the school and new football coach Rob Ash are creating a culture where players know they’re expected to attend classes and graduate.

“We’ve worked very hard to make changes,” Fields told about two dozen MSU professors and other employees at a University Governance Council meeting last week.

He said student advising has been improved, mentoring is offered, recruiting and the way the school evaluates recruits has changed to make sure “they’re going to be successful here.”

The football team’s Academic Progress Rate, which is based on the players keeping up their grades and staying in school, will likely be around 896 for the 2006-07 school year. That’s below the 925 APR required by the NCAA.

Because it would be the fourth year of failing to meet NCAA requirements, the school faces the loss of 10 percent of its scholarships, or 6.3 scholarships, and four hours of practice each week, said Camie Bechtold, associate athletics director for compliance and student services.

Currently teams can put in 20 hours of “athletic related activity,” including games, over six days. Games count as three hours and players must have one day off each week.

If the NCAA imposes the penalties it has said it will, MSU’s football team will have 16 hours of game and practice time over five days, Bechtold said, with the remaining time to be devoted to academics.

“We haven’t seen any direction from the NCAA,” on how the academic time must be structured, she said.

Any penalties will be announced in February, Bechtold said.