The answer is simple and two-fold. There is one year (2009-10) that had a program low APR (Academic Progress Rate that awards schools two points per semester per student-athlete with one point coming for eligibility and the other point for retention). The score for that year was a 916.
In previous years schools needed to show a four-year cycle score of 900 or a two-year cycle of 930. The new standards as of this year are 930 for the four-year cycle and 940 for the two-year span.
That 916 was the result of a number of players leaving the program, many because of the Cowboys overall improvement in football which had drawn better players in the program giving some of those players less opportunity to play. In other words, improvement on the field ended up costing Oklahoma State in the APR system.
The other major culprit in this situation has been steady over the past several seasons but it is one that is being handled differently and on more of a case-to-case basis. Oklahoma State has many more players preparing for NFL careers. In the past, most all of those players were allowed to stay on scholarship in the spring but some did not follow through with their classes and cost Oklahoma State points on academics.
Many of those athletes left Stillwater for long periods to train in workout facilities designed to prepare athletes for the NFL Combine and/or pro days. It is somewhat a case of student-athletes literally biting the hand that was feeding them.
Two aspects to remember are that the low score from 2009-10 will cycle off the four-year cycle after this year. We have also researched a huge 2013-14 senior class that will count in a big way during the next APR calculation.
In that class of 28 seniors, 15 have currently graduated. Many of those like quarterback Clint Chelf (Dec. 2012), Caleb Lavey (Dec. 2013), Charlie Moore (Dec. 2013) and Shaun Lewis (Dec. 2013) graduated early. Three more members of that class will graduate in December 2014.
In fact, two juniors that left the program with a year of eligibility remaining, center Jake Jenkins and offensive lineman Travis Cross, have both graduated. Cross will start Law School in Texas and Jenkins has accepted a job in Houston.
This current punishment of two hours of lost practice time a week will not impact the current class that is being recruited as the Cowboys will go back to full standing with the next APR release next May.
As for practice time, a source with the football program confirmed the staff is working to come up with the best plan possible to keep the missed time from impacting the teams's routine and success. The likely scenario as outlined in our earlier story is that time will come out of what the Cowboys have traditionally done with meeting and having a light practice on Sundays.
That won't keep opposing schools and some media sources from attempting to make this a more disastrous story. The truth of it is this is not an academic deficiency. Oklahoma State is doing a good job of educating its football players as evidenced by the success of the recent senior class and the previous graduation success rates for football.
Remember that graduation numbers are calculated based on classes from almost a decade in the past. Here are the graduation success rates released by the NCAA for Oklahoma State and the Big 12 from the past three years. Our explanation also shows the actual year the rates were derived from.
Cohort Year-2006 GSR-56% FSR-45% Big 12 Standing-8th
High GSR-TCU 85% Low GSR-Oklahoma 51%
Cohort Year-2005 GSR-62% FSR-50% Big 12 Standing-6th
High GSR-Kansas 72% Low GSR-Oklahoma 47%
Cohort Year-2004 GSR-65% FSR-53% Big 12 Standing-4th
High GSR-Texas Tech 68% Low GSR-Oklahoma 48%
OSU's football or athletic administration cannot be absolved of all the problems that led to this but it was more a problem of accounting and decisions based on what was best to come up with positive calculations with the APR than it was a lack of academic support or lack of importance and emphasis placed on academics for the student-athletes.
"We are taking steps to ensure that our APR numbers improve moving forward," Athletic Director Mike Holder said. "We are accountable for what we do and ultimately we are here to serve our student-athletes and do our best to keep them on track to be lifelong contributors to society."
"We have shown significant improvement over the last two years and we were able to demonstrate that we've taken strategies to address the areas where we were losing points. That's why we received partial relief from the standard penalty." said Kevin Fite, OSU Senior Associate Athletic Director for Compliance.
Consider this an education process that Oklahoma State football and athletics went through. Now they should be much better in dealing with and accounting their APR in the future.