Wednesday, April 16, 2014 | 2 a.m.
Handicapping how the UNLV football team will perform next season with no chance to reach a bowl game is impossible.
The Rebels were banned from the postseason last week because the program’s Academic Progress Rate fell below NCAA standards, meaning the Rebels' quest to play in consecutive bowl games for the first time in school history is over before the season begins.
We won’t know until the fall how motivated UNLV players will be with arguably nothing to play for, and because UNLV is the first FBS-level team to face a postseason ban under the NCAA’s APR requirements, we can’t compare the Rebels with other programs. The Rebels, in a sense, will be the guinea pigs.
And not just next season.
The punishment also includes limits on weekly practice, which could hinder development of players for future seasons. Players could also transfer and likely be eligible elsewhere, but it doesn’t appear any Rebels will take that option.
“I’m a Rebel,” said Devante Davis, a senior wide receiver, after last week’s spring showcase. “We’re all Rebels.”
The Rebels still have something to play for.
The schedule sets up perfectly for UNLV to have a meaningful game at the end of the season.
The Rebels’ finale is Nov. 29 over Thanksgiving weekend against instate rival UNR in the Fremont Cannon rivalry game at Sam Boyd Stadium. It doesn’t get any more significant for UNLV — for some, especially local players, beating UNR is more important than winning a bowl game.
UNLV will try to beat UNR for consecutive seasons for the first time since 2004. That was the last time scarlet-and-gray fans were able to celebrate a home victory against UNR.
“This is a very close-knit team, so we know we’re still going to play for each other,” running back Adonis Smith said after the showcase.
Also, the Rebels will be playing for consecutive seasons with a winning record for the first time 1984, when Randall Cunningham was the quarterback.
For comparison’s sake, here’s a look at how others have fared with no postseason to play for:
These 3 FCS football programs don’t provide a good gauge
Hampton, North Carolina A&T and Texas Southern of the Football Championship Subdivision were banned for the 2012 postseason because of low APR scores.
However, neither team is a regular playoff qualifier, giving us an inaccurate tool in measuring how the APR could hinder UNLV. Most seasons, these three FCS schools play an 11-game schedule before Thanksgiving, then head home for the holidays.
North Carolina A&T posted a 7-4 record in 2012 when it had a postseason ban but still wouldn’t have reached the playoffs. It also went 7-4 this past season.
Texas Southern won just two games each in the 2012 and 2013 seasons. Hampton won four games in 2013 and three in 2012.
UConn sets the bar high
Connecticut’s basketball team is one reason UNLV can be optimistic. UConn was banned for the 2013 postseason because of a low APR, then ran the table in this year’s tournament to win the national championship.
But unlike in basketball, where one player can spark a memorable season (see Connecticut’s Shabazz Napier), football requires more of a team effort.
And it’s wasn’t smooth sailing for UConn. In the year of its postseason ban, some players transferred out of the program.
Other basketball schools banned for the postseason
In addition to Connecticut, nine other Division I basketball schools were banned for the 2012 postseason because of a poor APR. None made the NCAA Tournament this year, but Toledo went 27-7 and advanced to the National Invitation Tournament.