Wrestling team banned from postseason play

Low academic performance rate gets Bulls banned from 2014-15 postseason

By TOM DINKI
On May 15, 2014

The Buffalo wrestling team has been banned from postseason play for the 2014-15 season.

The NCAA's committee on academic performance informed the Bulls of the ban, which is due to low Academic Progress Rate scores.

At this time, the team is unsure if the ban is for just the NCAA Wrestling Championships or for the Mid-American Conference Championships as well, according to an Athletics Department spokesman. UB has appealed the ban.

"The academic success of our student-athletes will always be the top priority at UB," said Athletic Director Danny White in a statement on the athletics department's website. "We are aware that problems did occur in the past, but we have faced them and made changes under the leadership of our new wrestling coach John Stutzman. Well before we even started the appeals process, we began implementing new processes to help all of our student-athletes have more success in the classroom."

Academic Progress Rate helps measure the eligibility and retention of student-athletes, according to NCAA's website. Points are earned based on whether student athletes remained eligible and returned to school. A perfect score, in which a team retained all of its student-athletes, is 1,000.

Buffalo's penalty is based on a four-year stretch from the 2009-10 to the 2012-13 wrestling seasons, a period in which the team averaged a 925 rate. Teams must have a rate of at least 930 in a four-year period or a 940 in the most recent two years to compete in championships. Former coach Jim Beichner, who coached the team for 18 years, was fired from his position in March 2013. Current head coach Stutzman was hired in May 2013.

"While we are disappointed in this situation, we are heading in a better direction and we are taking the necessary steps to ensure that this never happens again," Stutzman said in a statement on the athletics department's website. "It is an unfortunate situation, but our coaching staff has recruited and will continue to recruit the right kind of student-athletes, who are All-Americans both on the mat and in the classroom."

Stutzman denied comment and referred to his statement on the athletics department's website.

The team finished the 2013 fall semester, its first under Stutzman, with its highest grade point average since the fall of 2009, according to the athletics department's website.

The four-year period for which the team is being punished was marred by several incidents of wrestlers being removed from the team. Former wrestler Justin Lozano lost his scholarship following an incident on Feb. 16, 2013 in which he allegedly assaulted another UB student near South Campus. Former wrestler Desi Green was let go from the team before the 2011-12 season for violating program rules. He told The Spectrum in October 2011 that it was because of drug use.

This is the first season teams needed to meet a minimum four-year Academic Progress Rate average of 930 to eligible for the postseason. Teams previously needed a minimum four-year average of 900 to be eligible for postseason play.

UB is currently working with the SUNY Legal Council and NCAA to appeal the ban and a resolution is pending.

email: sports@ubspectrum.com


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