FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – Less than 24 hours after emerging from a landmark Presidential retreat, the Division I Board of Directors unanimously approved the concept of increasing the required academic performance of all teams and mandated that teams must meet those requirements in order to participate in any NCAA-sponsored championship or football bowl game, according to a NCAA release.
"The NCAA has made it clear this is going to be a student-athlete experience and we embraced that a long time ago," said Souers. "I am proud of the fact that our APR is where it is and I can assure you we are going to position ourselves for the playoffs and academics are not going to be an issue when we get there."
The board voted to raise the Academic Progress Rate benchmark from 900 to 930 and supported a penalty structure that will require teams to earn at least a 930 four-year, rolling APR in order to participate in postseason competition.
The NAU football program has increased its APR rating in each of the last five academic years (872 to 953) and has the highest multi-year rate in the Big Sky Conference, earning the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) Athletics Directors Association APR Award. The award is given to the highest APR score in each of the 14 FCS conferences.
Sweetness…Sophomore running back Zach Bauman was among the top freshmen in the country in rushing yards per game last season, one of four freshmen in Division I to average more than 94 yards. He ranked 25th overall in the FCS in rushing per game and was the top freshman in the FCS.
He hopes to improve on those numbers this season but he will do it with opponents chasing a different number in 2011. The Chandler, Ariz., native switched to No. 34 in a tribute to NFL Hall of Famer Walter Payton. He has worn #34 since he was six years old and he and his father watched Payton's games. He also considered #4 to honor his father, who wore that jersey number in his playing day but decided on the former Chicago Bears legend after whom the FCS Player of the Year Award is named. Reid Worthington wore No. 34 last season.
Practice Update…The Lumberjacks conducted their fourth practice of the camp on Friday and will add full pads for the workout on Saturday.
"We are progressing and we are taking our time with it," said Souers. "We need to get in football-contact condition. We have done a lot of training and work. Now we are going to work 11-on-11. That where our offense and our defense will improve and we will see the whole picture."
NAU will have its first day of two-a-days on Sunday.
Tackles for the Taking…Senior linebacker Scott McKeever is the top returning tackler on the team with 52 tackles last season. The Lumberjacks lost five of the top six tacklers on the team overall from a senior-laden defense and are looking to fill several spots on the defense. McKeever is the lone returning starter at linebacker from a squad that bolstered a position group that had four of the top six on the team. In 2010, NAU has one of the top defensive units in the Big Sky, leading the league in scoring defense (19.8), rushing defense (93.5) and sacks (33), while ranking second overall in total defense (306.6) and pass defense (213.1). The Lumberjacks ranked fifth nationally in rush defense and among the FCS Top 25 in sacks (10th), total defense (14th) and pass defense (22nd).
Picture of the Day…Head Coach Jerome Souers talked to boosters Dave and Terri Hill at practice on Friday.
Next Practice…The Lumberjacks will be in full pads on Saturday from 10:30-1 p.m. on the NAU Practice Fields, weather permitting.