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Southern's Stump Mitchell not happy with penalties
Southern University linebacker Anthony Balancier tried not to look at his right, opting instead to stare straight ahead at his cellphone.
But even though he didn’t look at Stump Mitchell, Balancier knew what the Jaguars head coach was talking about — it wasn’t X’s and O’s, it was APR, the SWAC and a push for academics under Southern’s second-year head coach.
“(Mitchell) always tells us that education comes before sports. That’s why we’re here,” said Balancier at the annual SWAC Football Media Day at the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex on Tuesday. “When we heard about the APR, people got serious. I saw more football players in class than I ever did before. You have to study hard, play hard or you have no choice.
“If you don’t want to study hard or play hard, you have to see coach Stump. And you don’t want to see him. Now, it’s go to class, film, sleep. Class, film, sleep.”
While the Academic Progress rate is a rolling four-year number that determines how a school’s athletes make progress toward academic goals, Mitchell isn’t on the hook for all of Southern’s lack of progress, having just been hired in 2010.
But Mitchell bristles at the penalty doled out by the NCAA and greater punitive measures from the SWAC: A loss of eight scholarships instead of less than two by the NCAA. And should the Jaguars, who were 2-9 last season and picked to finish in the bottom of the SWAC’s West Division, earn a spot in the conference championship game, they — along with East Division favorite Jackson State — would be ineligible.
“We’re holding out hope that the chancellors and presidents will revisit this and let us play for a SWAC title if we’re able to do that,” said Mitchell. “The NCAA didn’t prevent us or Jackson State from playing in a SWAC championship. There’s no sense in punishing a team if the NCAA doesn’t think it’s important enough to punish us.
“We’re not talking about an Ohio State or USC situation"» guys doing something illegal or alumni giving guys something they shouldn’t be getting. We’re talking about guys who weren’t going to class that aren’t even there now.”
Southern was the first school to be hit with a postseason ban in two sports — football and men’s basketball — because of low APR. But since the SWAC eschews a spot in the NCAA’s Football Championship Subdivision for its own championship, the league enacted the ban. Mitchell’s push for academic improvement goes beyond the classroom.
“Our kids weren’t coming to class and weren’t coming to the weight room. Then they were going to the weight room but weren’t lifting and were going to class but not taking books,” said Mitchell. “Now they’re going to class and taking their books , and going to the weight room and lifting.”
The difference is discipline.
“We were one of the most penalized teams in the NCAA last year (nearly 10 penalties per game). We dropped balls and you can’t do that,” said Mitchell. “You can’t run a control offense by completing less than 50 percent of your passes. There needs to be a lot of improvement there and it starts with discipline.”
By Paul Beaudry, The Shreveport Times