Knights Hitting the Books Hard

George O'Leary has his fair share of criticism while at UCF. Depending on your perspective, you either love the guy or hate the guy. Yes, there can be plenty said about UCF's head coach, good and bad, but there is at least one thing you can say about the guy; he gets his players to perform in the classroom.

Going to the NFL is a great achievement for any collegiate football player, but only a select few actually can take their game to the top tier. So for the thousands of guys that don't make it every year, they need something to fall back on, and O'Leary has made sure that his players have performed well academically.

It's no secret that O'Leary took over a program that had loose standards, and that's putting it nicely. He has molded the Knights into one of the best academic schools in that nation, as 41 football players had a GPA of 3.0 and higher this past year.

Usually you don't see fans bragging about how smart their football team is, unless you're an Ivy Leaguers and even then that gets stale pretty quickly, but being successful off the field is starting to pay off. Or I should say, not being successful off the field is starting to hurt.

The Academic Progress Rate was released on Wednesday. The APR started in 2004 and it is in place to closely scrutinize the academic performance of most college's academic situations. A perfect score is 1000 and UCF's athletic program as a whole averaged a very impressive 962, which was third in the state.

Since O'Leary has arrived, the football team's APR has gone up every year, and on Wednesday it was released that the team had a 960 APR.

No, you don't get trophies or rings for having a good APR, but what you do get is something that every college coach covets; NCAA leniency. To not have the suits in Indianapolis breathing down your neck is all a program can ask for, especially UCF, which has caught a lot of negative publicity for the death of Ereck Plancher during a workout. So any good publicity for the Knights is a good thing right now.

Other schools that weren't as diligent in the class room have been reprimanded. Jacksonville State's and Chattanooga's football programs will both be banned from postseason play.

Bigger programs that UCF competes with yearly for southern recruits, Ole Miss and Minnesota, will lose three scholarships each for having low APRs over the past four seasons. There might be more penalties for other schools in the non-distant future.

Obviously, a banner will not be hung in Bright House Networks Stadium for having a high APR, but for a team that is looking to rebound from off-field controversy and a disappointing 4-8 campaign, staying away from NCAA sanctions is always a good thing. So kudos to O'Leary, his staff, his players and the tutors who have done great work getting the Knights on track for a successful life following football.

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