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Alabama A&M hit with another NCAA probation

Football, baseball, men’s basketball, men’s golf face postseason bans

The NCAA placed Alabama A&M University on probation through 2023 for improperly certifying the academic eligibility of 101 student-athletes.

The violations involved students in 14 sports during the 2011-12 to 2015-16 academic years. The school’s punishment includes a fine, probation, reduction of scholarships and recruiting restrictions. The baseball, men’s basketball, football and men’s golf teams will have a postseason ban for the 2018-19 season. These teams must also reduce their scholarship allocation by 10 percent.

“We had lot of transition with staff since 2009,” Alabama A&M athletic director Bryan Hicks said during a news conference Tuesday. “There were individuals who were hired and didn’t have the necessary NCAA experience, but who had institutional knowledge and other responsibilities.”

Since the problems were discovered in 2015, the school said it has been taking steps to prevent a situation like this from happening again. According to Hicks, the school has hired people with strong knowledge of NCAA academics and compliance rules.

This is not the first time that Alabama A&M has faced postseason restrictions. The school was among 17 Division I schools that had postseason bans during the 2017-18 season because they did not meet Academic Progress Rate standards for student-athletes. Alabama A&M had its baseball, men’s basketball, men’s golf and women’s cross-country teams fall below the standard. An academic enhancement program now has staff that enforces study hall and other measures to ensure that athletes stay academically eligible.

Under new head coach Connell Maynor, A&M’s football team won its season opener, beating Miles College 37-0, before losing to North Alabama 25-20. The Bulldogs play at the University of Cincinnati this weekend.

Despite the postseason ban, the team is looking forward to the season.

“Everyone was mad about it at first, but we can still ball out and go undefeated in the conference,” said safety Desmond Fletcher. “Our mindset is to just ball out and get better because it’s still scouts out there watching.”

The restrictions won’t slow the momentum of some teams. Alabama A&M’s softball team will be looking for a Southwestern Athletic Conference championship this season after having the best regular-season record in the division last year.

“We have fixed the problem,” Hicks said at Tuesday’s news conference. “We have worked diligently with the NCAA, outside counsel and what are areas we can improve.”

Janae Adams is a senior mass media arts major from the Bay Area. She was a top softball player at Alabama A&M before transferring to Clark, and is now a staff writer for “The Panther.” She can quote the entire film “Juice” and is a firm believer that drums are better than flats.