Ineligibility, Not Again

Fall is here, and it is time for football. Time for football players at Florida Atlantic to become ineligible for play. No, this is not the Owl’s inaugural year when seven starters became academically ineligible just before their first game against Slippery Rock University. This is the 2002 season, and yes, it has happened again.

Last year’s leading rusher, Doug Parker was ruled ineligible just before full team practices even began. Just days before that, it was made public that Dekolan James did not even enroll at FAU for this semester. To make things worse, FAU faces one of the toughest schedules of any Division I-AA team this year.

Parker and James are huge losses for this team. The duo combined for 1,050 of the teams 1,367 rushing yards last season. Yards that will sorely be missed this year.

Replacing Parker and James will be the running back by committee concept. Sophomore Anthony Jackson will be starting, who starred on special teams last season, ranking 28th nationally with 24.63 yards per kickoff return. Jackson is also the only running back with experience with his 191 yards last season. After Jackson, the running back position gets interesting. FAU fields: Eric Harper, a tight end turned running back last season, Daveon Barron, a transfer from Bethune-Cookman, and two Junior College transfers, Robert Matheny and Leland Rodgers.

As I stated before, making this worse is Florida Atlantic’s tough schedule. Facing three Division I-A teams on the road, an established runner will be needed to take some pressure off Jared Allen. Otherwise FAU won’t even stay close with these teams. Also, FAU will be playing three Division I-AA ranked teams. Coach Howard Schnellenberger believes “that we strive to meet that competition, and in doing so, we will improve faster”. Well, without Parker and James, everyone else needs to get better faster or a four-win season will be next to impossible.

If there is any good news to come for this season, Schnellenberger has been optimistic that Parker could rejoin the team at a later date. He has been quoted as saying “(Parker has) some more work to do”, and “he is going to be a while”.

This year’s schedule will be the biggest pressure on this Fighting Owls team. The academic problems of Parker and James have made it worse. 2001 saw this finish 4-6, 2002 could see the “Big-Bad Burly Birds” go 3-8. Backwards is not the way Schnellenberger wanted to start his return to Division I-A football. But if players continue this trend of rendering themselves in eligible, his task will be difficult.