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Archive for May 6th, 2008

Team unaffected by low NCAA APR score

Posted by Jeff Nusser on May 6, 2008

The NCAA made some waves today when it released its yearly report on Annual Progress Rates — a four-year rolling rate designed to measure both retention of athletes and their progress toward a degree. Despite having one of the lowest APRs in the WSU athletic department, the basketball team avoided the penalties that befell the football team.

I found the low figure of 903 curious, given the reputation the Bennetts have for commitment to academic excellence. As it turns out, the only reason the number stands as high as it does is because the Bennetts are so awesome: The figure in Dick Bennett’s first season was abysmally low — 813, more than 100 points below the NCAA’s accepted standard of 925 — thanks to the remnants of the Paul Graham era. In the past three years, the team has posted scores of 938, 923 and 942, and will presumably rise safely above that 925 figure next year, making any future conversation about scholarship losses moot.

The team escaped penalty this year because all of the players who left the program in 2006-07, either through transfer or exhausted eligibility, were on track to graduate.

The only basketball team in the Pac-10 to lose scholarships was USC, which the Los Angeles Times reports was due to Lodrick Stewart, Nick Young and Gabe Pruitt not attending classes after the end of last season.

Honestly, that’s where I think this NCAA program gets it right. There’s got to be some accountability for players not interested in making progress toward graduation and for institutions who don’t make sure they are interested. This relatively new system, which is only just now fully taking shape, is infinitely better than the antiquated graduation rate system, which was the epitome of how statistics can be skewed to say just about anything you want.

But this APR system also underscores the continuing gap between the haves and the have-nots in the NCAA.

Consider: Of the 53 men’s basketball programs to receive sanctions, only six are teams from BCS conferences — USC, Kansas State, Purdue, Seton Hall, Colorado and South Carolina. BCS schools make up roughly 20 percent of all Division I basketball schools, yet comprised only 11 percent of sanctions.

Is it because BCS schools have a premium on academically committed athletes? Or could it be because they generally have far more resources at their disposal, such as small armies of tutors and counselors, to “ensure” students stay on track for graduation?

Just some food for thought.

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