APR Scores Just Became A Lot More Important

A quick refresher on the NCAA's Academic Progress Rate:

Collegiate sports teams that fail to achieve an APR score of 925 - equivalent to a 50% graduation rate - may be penalized with the loss of scholarships. A perfect score is 1000. The scores are calculated as follows:

The APR is calculated by allocating points for eligibility and retention -- the two factors that research identifies as the best indicators of graduation. Each player on a given roster earns a maximum of two points per term, one for being academically eligible and one for staying with the institution. A team's APR is the total points of a team's roster at a given time divided by the total points possible. Since this results in a decimal number, the CAP decided to multiply it by 1,000 for ease of reference. Thus, a raw APR score of .925 translates into the 925 that will become the standard terminology.

NC State's revenue sports have kept out of trouble (though, with a score of 929 in the latest report, football is near the 925 threshold).

The NCAA is moving ahead with a plan to make APR even more important:

NCAA president Mark Emmert told ESPN Radio host Scott Van Pelt on Thursday that the association's Division-I Board of Directors has approved a plan to institute a minimum academic standard for teams participating in the NCAA Tournament, with roll-out expected by 2016, according to The Bylaw Blog. Teams falling under a 930 on the Academic Progress Rate would apparently being barred from the next NCAA Tournament.

If this had been in place last year, Florida State, Syracuse, and national champion UConn would have been ineligible for the NCAA tournament. By Andy Staples's count, 101 schools would have been ineligible for the 2011 tournament, which is nearly a third of I-A. (And had this applied to football, NC State would have been ineligible for the Champs Bowl.)

[Edit: The above paragraph is all kinds of wrong, but in my defense it made sense at the time. There is a year of lag time between the end of the academic year and the reports based on said year, which puts two years between figures and enforcement. Figures from the 2008-09 academic year were published in June 2010, figures from the 2009-10 acadmic year figures were published in May 2011, etc. Which means that sanctions based on the 2009-10 APR score would apply to 2011-12. Therefore NC State would have been fine to play in the Champs Bowl, while UConn and Florida State would have been perfectly eligible for the 2011 NCAA tournament. (You're still boned, Syracuse, due to a sub-standard score in 2008-09.)]

This is still several years away, and if there was one thing Sidney Lowe took care of at NC State, it was his program's academic standing. State had an APR of 980 in 2009-10 and the multi-year APR is even better: 985. That's good enough to put NC State in the 90th percentile within college basketball. So it's not something Mark Gottfried has to fret about right away, but for Gottfried and coaches everywhere, it's just one more concern, one more headache.

Staples also noted that only one SWAC school would have been eligible for the tournament last season:

The SWAC's NCAA tourney rep last year would have been Alcorn State -- by default. The only school with an APR high enough to be eligible.

An APR cutline for tourney eligibility helps schools that can afford academic support teams to hold poor students' hands. Sorry, SWAC.
Schools have some time to get their act together, but this is going to hurt the product. Imagine a conference tournament final where one school is ineligible and the other is not--the game itself becomes irrelevant, and that is a shame. Never mind that this feels like an unnecessary extension of academic requirements; if this is going to mess with March madness, that's all the reason I need to oppose this.

(Oh, and the standards will apply to bowl games.)

Update: A quick clarification since there are two numbers--the four-year rolling average APR and single-season APR--in play and I didn't properly explain the distinction as it pertains to enforcement. Bylaw Blog:

The reason for the delay is APR is a four-year rolling measure. So after 2014-15, you have three years of data under the new rule.
Postseason eligibility is based on the rolling average, not the single-season figure. For example, say NCSU basketball had single-season APRs of 980 in 2012, 965 in 2013, 960 in 2014, and 920 in 2015. The 920 figure would not make the team ineligible for the 2017 (yes, 2017; see correction above) NCAA tournament because the rolling average--based on those four seasons--would be 956 in that case, well above the 930 threshold.

Update II: Still yet more clarification. This from Mark Armstrong:
Okay - just off phone with Carrie Leger - APR specialist at NCSU. Understand this deal much better now...the basics to follow....

Last yr's 929 is a cumulative of the previous 4 years, but NOT a straight avg of the four. NCSU's last 4 years have been 921, 936, 924, 936
I then asked Mark if he was told how it was weighted and noted that the straight average of those four numbers is 929.25. His response:
it's surely close - but she said you factor in # of scholarship athletes and some other stuff too.
Bad assumption on my part. It's not a straight average, though averaging the numbers offers a good approximation. I think my basketball example still works for my purposes here, so I'm going to leave that in the post.
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