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Anton Goff, the athletic director at the University of Hartford, says athletic departments must work with academic departments to ensure student athlete success. (Twitter Photo)

That improbable season where Morgan State woke up the echoes of their championship glory has been tarnished by the NCAA’s sanctions against a team that did not meet its Academic Progress Rate (APR) for the 2014-2015 year. Morgan’s problems meeting NCAA guidelines for compliance are a symptom of a larger problems facing HBCU athletic programs around the country.

The Bears football program is banned from postseason competition next year after falling short of the APR.  The APR is an annual review of the progress student athletes are making toward graduation.

In 2003 the NCAA implemented the APR and awards a point to each student athlete for remaining academically eligible and in school. The maximum any program can receive is 1,000 points. Any team that doesn’t score at least 930 faces sanctions such as reduced practice time to increase academic concentration.

Morgan is not the only Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference program not to make APR.  Howard University’s football program scored 908 and are ineligible as well.  Howard, already facing a conditional penalty, failed to meet the conditions so now they must serve it although it remains under appeal.

Howard and Morgan are just two of the MEAC programs facing sanctions this fall.  Conference rivals Florida A&M and Savannah St. are also ineligible as is fellow HBCU Southern University of the Southwestern Athletic Conference.

Five of the seven FCS football schools facing postseason bans are HBCUs which begs the question of competence versus resources when it comes to issues of academic compliance.  Most schools can’t afford to adequately staff academic support but there is no synergy between athletics and other departments which could streamline efforts.

“The athletics department can’t be in a silo it has to be an integral part of the institution,” said Anton Goff, the athletic director at the University of Hartford and formerly at Bowie State.  “If you’re going to have Division I athletics everyone has to be on board or you’re going to have glaring problems”.

Before working at Bowie State Goff was an associate athletic director at the University of Maryland and worked closely in academic support.  One of his major accomplishments was improving Bowie’s academic success and graduation rates to the same level as the general student population while his program won the 2013 CIAA’s Men’s Basketball Championship.  He says the dilemma facing HBCUs are “economic resources that affect human resources.”

“When the APR was implemented many HBCUs were already behind the eight ball financially to adequately fund academic support and compliance,” said Goff.  “But when you’re behind it’s hard to catch up.  In this day and age all ADs should understand the value of a good compliance coordinator.”

The absence of resources in most HBCU athletic departments means that compliance officers can often be responsible for monitoring 300-500 student athletes from all sports with no help at Division I FCS programs.   However, the Division I major colleges generally have academic support in place that includes compliance monitoring for individual sports.

Their operating budgets far exceed what most HBCUs can appropriate thus violations slip through the cracks.  When Louisiana slashes their education budget, for example, it trickles down to athletics.  Southern is ineligible for post season in 10 sports this year.

“If your roof is leaking eventually it’s eventually going to cave in,” said Goff.

All hope is not lost as Hampton University is at the forefront of using the NCAA’s Accelerating Academic Success Program to help its APR. The NCAA grants up to $900,000 for “limited resource institutions.” After failing to meet the APR in 2012 Hampton scored 956 last year following a $675,000 grant used to staff three academic counselors and an eligibility specialist.