Tired of hearing how a dozen football players couldn’t make their grades in spring semester? Tired of hearing APR horror stories that included Level Two penalties and no spring football?
It was time to hear some good news from an academic standpoint and football coach Reggie Barlow delivered that earlier this week when he announced only one player (and NO starters) were academic casualties for the 2013 season.
That’s a drastic turnaround from the 2011 season when 15 players or transfers were ineligible and in 2012 when 11 didn’t make the grade. Barlow gave the credit to academic advisor German Bello who has proactively attacked the problem as well as Barlow’s assistant coaches, who have taken a much more active role in monitoring the players’ classroom progress.
“I think we’ve finally turned the corner as opposed to having those issues,” Barlow said. “Right now, it’s one (player). We have ‘truth statements,’ which is basically having the guys fill out forms. ‘My word, man on man, that I’ve been going to class. Here’s what I perceive, grade wise.’ Then we have instructors sending us progress reports to Mr. Bello, then we have random class checks. A combination of all those things have allowed us to be in a much better place academically.”
Barlow spent a day or two each week bringing in different speakers to discuss various subjects with the team (all coaches look for speakers on gambling, staying out of trouble, etc.) and one of those subjects frequently brought up was academics.
“We started bringing folks in and letting (the players) hear it from a different perspective,” Barlow said. “Dr. Ted Phillips, a professor here, came and did a program with our guys in the spring that lasted four weeks and every week it was a different topic.”
The topics, he added, tried to mix academics and athletics, noting that win-at-all-cost attitude, “the same one where you find a way to fight through that last gasser (at practice), the same one where you’re determined to break tackles or make the tackle, let’s have that same conquering attitude in the classroom.”
The only current player that will be an academic casualty in 2013 will be reserve free safety Melvin Davis, while there are five more incoming freshmen that are expected to be academic casualties.
Barlow spoke of two or three freshmen on signing day that were long shots to make it, but he hoped they would honor their commitment to ASU and enroll in school in the fall and use 2013 as a way of earning academic eligibility for the following year. All five, he said, have agreed to do so.
Davis, a sophomore from New Orleans, will redshirt this season as well and should return in 2014 as a third-year sophomore.
It’s great news for a program that lost two starters, including the team’s leading tackler, from the year before. The past two years, it has forced the Hornets to spend some time in August juggling the lineup in search of more depth. Now, after bringing in several high-profile transfers along with a good recruiting class, having virtually every player on hand who participated in spring practice eligible for the fall is a huge step in a championship direction.
“That’s very encouraging to know the guys are working in the classroom as well as the weight room,” Barlow said. “The foundation of it is academics and you can’t play football without taking care of that. To have all of our guys in a situation where they’re taking care of their classwork and we’ll have them heading into August, especially the core guys that went through spring with us, is a really good thing.”