The No. 3 Sam Houston State University Bearkats were without star senior defensive lineman P.J. Hall in their season opener against the No.7 Richmond Spiders. Hall, who was selected as a preseason all-conference first teamer, is serving a two-game suspension due to an academic issue.
The NCAA’s Application of Progress-Toward-Degree Legislation outlines the academic requirements that student athletes need to meet in the classroom in order to remain eligible on the field. According to bylaw 184.108.40.206.6, “Football student-athletes who do not earn nine-semester hours during the fall term…may not be eligible to compete during the first four games during the next season.”
In Hall’s case, he is serving a mandatory two game suspension.
“Last fall, he had some personal stuff going on,” head coach K.C. Keeler said. “He had a bad semester, and was in a situation where he only passed seven credits. He didn’t pass nine.”
The NCAA’s new academic policy, nicknamed “the nine-credit rule,” has gotten some backlash from NCAA coaches as well as student-athlete advisors for its increasingly difficult academic requirements.
“[Hall] has never failed a class in his entire time at Sam with me as the coach,” Keeler said. “Although he will graduate with a very good GPA, he was put in this situation where he has to serve a mandatory two game suspension.”
Although the Bearkats kicked off their 2017 campaign with a top-ten victory over the Spiders, Hall’s absence on the defensive line was noticeable. SHSU’s defense allowed 652 total yards on the way to surrendering 34 points in the team’s victory. The Kats also allowed Richmond’s senior quarterback Kyle Lauletta to set a school record with 546 passing yards and five touchdowns.
Hall was a force to be reckoned with last season. He recorded 13 sacks on his way to earning the title of Southland Conference Defensive Player of the Year. Throughout his career, Hall has accumulated 224 total tackles (129 solo) in 44 games at SHSU. In addition to missing the season opener, Hall will also sit out Thursday’s game against Prairie View A&M.
Hall is set to make his season debut on Sept. 23 when the Bearkats battle the Nicholls State Colonels at Bowers Stadium. The defensive lineman is just seven sacks away from breaking the all-time FCS sack record. His return to the defensive line will be a highly anticipated one as the Bearkat defense will look to contain the Colonel’s sophomore quarterback Chase Fourcade.
“P.J. Hall will make a huge difference,” Keeler said.