Appeals committee clears the way for EWU to regain eligibility for the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision Playoffs
The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I Infractions Appeals Committee has overturned the 2009 postseason ban for Eastern Washington University's football program, the NCAA announced on Tuesday (Oct. 27).
The move allows Eastern to regain eligibility for the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision Playoffs, which would begin in late November. That penalty was appealed by EWU shortly after the NCAA released its penalties in February from findings from a two-year review of activities involving the EWU football team from 2003-07.
Eastern is currently 5-3 overall and 4-2 in the Big Sky Conference, and would need to win its final three games to even gain consideration for the FCS Playoffs. Eastern begins that quest this Saturday in the "Showdown on the Sound" against Portland State University at Qwest Field in Seattle, Wash., at 1:05 p.m.
In any event, the NCAA's decision was a victory in the eyes of Eastern athletic director Bill Chaves and head coach Beau Baldwin.
"We are pleased with the appeals committee's decision to reverse the 2009 postseason ban penalty," said Chaves. "The release from the NCAA speaks for itself, but we are grateful that our student-athletes, especially our senior class, will have the opportunity to potentially play for a post-season berth."
"It gives our players hope," said Baldwin. "But we do have to take care of business to give us an opportunity to possibly be selected. The scenario we are in is the same as it was in 2004 and 2007 when we had teams that had to win their last four games to get in."
After this week's game with Portland State, Eastern plays challenging road games at Southern Utah on Nov. 14 and Northern Arizona on Nov. 21 before the first-round playoff pairings are announced on Nov. 22. First-round games begin on Nov. 28 with the championship game taking place on Dec. 18. Eastern has appeared in the playoffs six times -- 1985, 1992, 1997, 2004, 2005 and 2007.
"We have to take the same game-at-a-time approach that we have had all year," added Baldwin. "We have three tough opponents ahead, starting with Portland State. They have beaten us three-straight years and they will be a tough opponent again this year."
Eastern submitted its appeal in March to the 2009 postseason ban imposed by the NCAA Committee on Infractions. As part of the appeal process, Eastern athletic director Bill Chaves, EWU President Dr. Rodolfo Arévalo and other administrators met with the appeals committee in Indianapolis, Ind., on Aug. 17.
Eastern appealed just the postseason ban and not the other penalties -- most of those were self-imposed previously -- that were released by the NCAA on Feb. 11. The NCAA looked into a series of secondary rule violations, which, taken in total, led to a major infractions case. The university originally self-reported the violations to the NCAA in February 2007.
In its report, the NCAA's Committee on Infractions accepted self-imposed measures the university already implemented. Those measures began at the start of the current academic year and will be continually improved and assessed. In addition, the NCAA levied a penalty on the football team which prohibits postseason play during the 2009 football season and placed EWU on three years of probation, from 2009-2012. During the probationary period, EWU will be required to file additional compliance reports with the NCAA.
After the arrival of EWU President Rodolfo Arévalo and Chaves, who came to Eastern in September of 2007, several new monitoring systems and resources for coaches were put in place to reflect Eastern's commitment to properly-managed athletic programs. At the time of the violations, many of those resources were not in place, including checks and balances that may have helped avoid the violations from occurring.
"We do realize the work that still needs to be done day-in and day-out with our football program, both on and off the field," added Chaves. "But I am tremendously confident in our coaching staff, administrative staff and the procedures that we have implemented."