- Travis Haney, ESPN Staff Writer
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STILLWATER, Okla. -- Mike Gundy is unhappy about losing practice time as a result of his team finishing below the NCAA's Academic Progress Rate threshold, but the Oklahoma State coach on Friday did express accountability for the shortcoming.
Gundy's Cowboys will lose two practice hours per week for the 2014 season after the program's four-year score came up .09 shy of the 930 minimum APR needed to avoid punishment.
"I've accepted it," Gundy told ESPN.com on Friday morning. "I'm in charge. It's not the AD's fault. It's not the president's fault. It's not anyone's fault but mine. I'll deal with it. It's not going to affect our team. It's not going to affect our players. Is it a disadvantage? Sure it is. But we'll be OK."
Gundy downplayed the actual loss of time, saying the Cowboys had already reduced their practice hours in recent years. He estimated that the team has been using about 19 of the allotted 20 hours, so he and his staff will have to figure out a way to account for the loss of the additional hour.
Gundy said he has theories about how to structure the reduced weekly schedule, but he wants to first poll his assistants before deciding. Most of Oklahoma State's assistants are on the road recruiting.
The NCAA initially said Oklahoma State would lose four practice hours per week, but it cut the number in half after the school appealed because of how close the score was to being in the acceptable APR range. Gundy conceded that being limited to 16 hours "would have been tougher."
"I appreciate the reduction," he said.
Even with the success of the initial appeal, an Oklahoma State official said the school would continue to move to have the punishment dropped altogether. At the same time, the official said, there's an understanding that accountability is needed for the matter.
"We are taking steps to ensure that our APR numbers improve moving forward," athletic director Mike Holder said a statement issued Wednesday. "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."
Gundy, who is 77-38 in nine seasons at his alma mater, was not quoted in that statement. How close is .09 in the world of the APR? One player's retention or graduation would have pushed the Cowboys above the minimum requirement.
Other coaches have expressed frustration about how the APR is derived. Gundy was no different, especially given the punishment. He pointed out numerous cases of NFL early entrants and transfers that resulted in the score's precipitous drop.
That does not make Oklahoma State any different from a lot of schools. Gundy said, however, that the program's unprecedented upward trend -- the recent pinnacle being the Big 12 title in 2011 -- resulted in a higher-than-usual number of transfers and NFL early exits.
"Some older players were being beaten out [for positions] by better recruits, and they wanted to go play somewhere else," Gundy said. He also pointed to oddball outliers, such as a player transferring to OSU and then leaving after one day, which resulted in a two-point deduction. In another instance, a player left the team to be with his family, costing OSU a point. Ironically, he now works in the football office as an offensive assistant.
There was some concern from Gundy that fans too closely link APR scores to academics. Gundy said he could recall only one academic casualty in his 10 years. Even those who were suspended for grades were eventually reinstated, he said.
"It's not a grades deal," he said. "It's a retention deal that I think is unrealistic."
Gundy said some schools cut off scholarships after players say they are leaving early for the NFL. That allows them to avoid some of the APR hit.
"We haven't done that because we want to honor what we told them we would give them," he said. "We are being hurt for trying to encourage them to graduate? ... I don't think the system is set up for what they want to accomplish."
3dSam Khan Jr.