Photo by Mark Gilliland/Chattanooga Times Free Press UTC football coach Russ Huesman
Russ Huesman pounded his fist on his desk to emphasize the point.
"This has got to be the end of it," the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga football coach said Thursday about his program's Academic Progress Rate problems, which he inherited in December 2008 when he replaced Rodney Allison as the Mocs' coach.
He wasn't angry, just adamant.
"This has got to be the end of it," Huesman said again, "and I think our kids, our football team, knows that. This is the last time we're going through this. We're going to get past this, move on and we're going to be strong academically from here on out."
Athletic director Rick Hart announced Thursday that UTC would be eligible for the 2010 postseason barring a horrendous spring semester in the classroom. However, due to a poor 2007-08 APR score the already-penalized program has been hit with further scholarship and practice-time reductions.
The Mocs lost roughly 1.5 scholarships, dropping their total available to 55.18, Hart said. The FCS limit is 63, which means that UTC will be at a competitive disadvantage, especially in terms of depth, in every game it plays next season.
Adding to that disadvantage is the fact that UTC must now give the players two days off a week instead of one. And the Mocs will again have a 16-hour work week instead of the standard 20.
The Mocs will take Mondays and Fridays off, which means they won't have their usual meetings and walk-through on Friday. They still will travel to road games together on Fridays and eat their team meals with the coaches present.
According to NCAA bylaw 22.214.171.124.1, it will still count as an off day "provided no countable athletically related activities occur during that day." In other words, the players can meet on their own all they want, but the coaches can't talk shop with the players when they're on the bus together or while munching on some fried chicken or pasta.
Even though the Mocs are still facing some stiff penalties, Hart said it was crucial that the program again be eligible for the postseason.
"There is a stigma and it hurts your pride," he said of being banned, which UTC was last season. "It was important that we were able to recapture the possibility of going to the postseason, not only for the obvious competitive reasons, but just so you don't have that stigma attached to you."
Both UTC and Jacksonville State were banned from last season's playoffs for APR reasons -- the only two Division I football programs in country to be excluded -- but both will be eligible when they meet at Jacksonville State on Sept. 11.
The Gamecocks would have earned the Ohio Valley Conference's automatic bid last season without the ban. The Mocs went 6-5, 4-4 in the Southern Conference, for the program's first winning season since 2005. UTC has made the playoffs only once, in 1984.
John Frierson is in his seventh year at the Times Free Press and seventh year covering University of Tennessee at Chattanooga athletics. The bulk of his time is spent covering Mocs football, but he also writes about women’s basketball and the big-picture issues and news involving the athletic department. A native of Athens, Ga., John grew up a few hundred yards from the University of Georgia campus. Instead of becoming a Bulldog he attended Ole ...