Rebels football:

UNLV football’s postseason ban is lifted this season

The university resubmitted its numbers after discovering some possible differences and reached the NCAA’s minimum score

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Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun

UNLV defensive back Mike Horsey and head coach Bobby Hauck chest bump after the defense stopped San Diego State during their Mountain West Conference game Saturday, Nov. 30, 2013 at Sam Boyd Stadium. UNLV won 45-19.

Updated Thursday, June 26, 2014 | 2:25 p.m.

UNLV football will be eligible for the postseason this year, after all. The program announced today that the NCAA has accepted an updated Academic Progress Rate score submitted by the university.

UNLV’s new four-year score is 930, the minimum allowed without punishment. In April, the university announced an NCAA subcommittee had denied its petition and banned UNLV from postseason play for posting a score of 925.

“We are simply ecstatic for our student-athletes, coaches and all Rebel fans everywhere,” UNLV Athletic Director Tina Kunzer-Murphy said in a statement. “From the day I arrived here last summer, the APR process has been a top priority.”

The Rebels are coming off a 7-6 season that ended with their first bowl berth since 2000. The bowl ban was considered a big derailment to the momentum coach Bobby Hauck had built entering his fifth season. UNLV can now aim for its first back-to-back bowl bids in school history.

“Obviously we are excited to be eligible to play in the Mountain West Championship game and a bowl this season,” Hauck said in a statement. “Nearly every man in our program stayed together through this — remained a team.”

As the program worked to improve its future APR performance, Kunzer-Murphy said, they looked closer at the four-year score and discovered discrepancies based on NCAA rulings and interpretations that might affect the score.

The university reapplied its numbers last week, and the NCAA determined UNLV met the requirement, lifting the postseason ban.

“Accurate data is the foundation of the Academic Performance Program and essential to the assessment of eligibility for postseason play,” said Kevin Lennon, NCAA vice president for academic and membership affairs. “Allowing schools to correct their data according to our policies helps maintain the integrity of the program.”

The APR awards a maximum of four points per athlete in the school year and then is weighted to a 1,000-point scale. UNLV’s reported 925 score would have been enough to avoid punishment under previous standards, but the NCAA recently raised the threshold.

UNLV was the first Division I football program to receive a bowl ban for its APR score. When the ban was announced, Hauck called it a “personal failure” but questioned the NCAA’s methods, because the entire team was punished for errors of a few.

“Anytime you try to legislate (academics), it becomes an albatross, and through good intentions it can become disastrous,” Hauck said in April. “For us, APR is a disaster.”

Senior offensive lineman Brett Boyko called it a “kick in the groin.” Now both men and the rest of the Rebels have been given new hope, although a couple players have already left.

Senior running back Adonis Smith and senior offensive lineman Cameron Jefferson transferred to Arizona and Arkansas, respectively. Any player whose eligibility would have run out during the ban was allowed to transfer to another program without sitting out.

Smith was expected to walk on at Arizona, and Jefferson figures to be a key piece on the Razorbacks’ line. It’s unclear if either player would have the option to return to UNLV.

The Rebels also scheduled a 13th game — at Houston on Sept. 20 — that they might not have added without the ban. Now they must go at least 7-6 to make a bowl game as opposed to 6-6, although the trip does come with a $400,000 payday, according to UNLV.

Taylor Bern can be reached at 948-7844 or [email protected]. Follow Taylor on Twitter at twitter.com/taylorbern.

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