You may remember last summer when we ran a series of posts regarding NCAA related rules and regulations and their relevant explanations. Most of them involved a lot of math, science and weird social studies quandaries, and we needed someone to somehow make sense of them.
None of the TGR crew was smart enough to do this solo, so we recruited Sammy Clemmon’s knowledge blended with all of our input for this piece on the Academic Progress Rate. We’ve updated it to reflect yesterday’s report on the APR as well:
Last week in this very space we talked in detail about the NBA’s one-and-done rule and how universities and their coaches often shoulder much of the blame for having one year collegians on their men’s basketball teams. And while those universities and coaches are not in the wrong in allowing one-and-dones, there can be negative consequences that stem from the practice if things aren’t done the right way.
Enter the APR.
I’ll be honest. The first time I heard about the APR I thought it sounded like something that was more relevant to my grandparents than to my favorite college basketball team. What I would come to learn is that it wasn’t a club for senior citizens, but rather the abbreviation for the NCAA’s Academic Progress Rate, the Association’s newest way of attempting to measure academic success across college athletics programs.
According to the NCAA, the Academic Progress Rate is described as follows:
Hmmm, ok. As a Kentucky fan, I know your next question is probably something like: “What about student-athletes that might leave school early? How might they impact the APR?” Read on, my friend.
If a student-athlete is in good academic standing and leaves school early to pursue a professional career, the team receives one point for academic achievement but is NOT penalized a retention point. In other words, the team receives 100 percent of the points available and the team is not penalized. But if a student-athlete leaves early and is in poor academic standing, the team loses two points, making it harder for the team’s APR score to recover.
Got all of that, TGR brothers and sisters? Me neither. Let’s dive a little deeper into this thing.
(Before we go any farther, let me say that I am by no means an expert on this whole APR issue. But, based upon what I’ve read, the information that follows is how I understand the rule. If it’s not right, you can’t say I didn’t warn you. Deal? Good. Now that we’ve got that out of the way…)
Hypothetically speaking, let’s say that you have a basketball team with 13 scholarship players. Based on the information above, the maximum number of ‘points’ available if all of your players either a) graduated or b) remained in school would be 26. There would be two points available for each player and the calculation would be fairly simple. In a perfect world, your team would get 13 academic achievement points and 13 retention points each year, resulting in a perfect 1000 APR score (26 out of 26).
However, things aren’t always that cut and dry. Imagine a situation (hypothetical, of course) where, in addition to 4 departing graduates and 5 returning players, your favorite team also had 4 underclassmen “leave school early to pursue a professional career” (ie: go to the League). All of the 9 graduates and returning players are in good academic standing. That means each of those players earned 1 retention point and 1 academic achievement point, totaling 18 out of 18 possible APR points. Now, as long as each of the four underclassmen is in good academic standing at the end of the academic year (ie: would be eligible to compete if they came back to school), they would each receive 1 point for academic progress. And, because they left school in good academic standing to pursue a professional career, the university would not be penalized any retention points (but not granted those points, either…they would simply be dismissed). In this case, four departing underclassmen would earn 4 out of 4 possible APR points and the university would earn 22 out of 22 total points, resulting in a perfect APR score of 1000.
However, if one of those departing underclassmen decided to leave school early in poor academic standing, the situation wouldn’t be quite so rosy. In such a situation, this particular underclassman – who, for purposes of this example, we will randomly call “Daniel” – would not only lose 1 academic progress point for his university, but, in doing so, would also cost his university 1 retention point at the same time. So, assuming all else stays the same from the previous example, the poor academic performance by “Daniel” would mean that his university gained a total of 21 out of a possible 23 points…good for an APR score of 913, a score that falls below the NCAA required minimum of 925.
Important to note from all of this is one simple fact: The greater the number of non-graduating players that leave your team early for a “professional career,” the greater the risk your program takes on as it relates to the Academic Progress Rate. For with each successful underclassman that leaves school early, the total pool of APR points declines by 1. As a result, the margin for error becomes much thinner, and any single underclassman who leaves early without successfully finishing the academic semester can drop his university’s APR score below the NCAA required minimum.
So, how does this APR thing affect you, Mr. and Mrs. Kentucky fan? Well, for starters, it brings a much greater understanding as to why Coach Cal declared for months upon taking the Kentucky job that he would only recruit “givers” to UK, not “takers.” After all, if the man is going to churn out pros and make his program susceptible to APR risk, he needs to know that his departing underclassmen will watch his back and finish out the spring semester. Thus, he needs superstars who will do the necessary work to make sure that they keep UK in good shape going forward. You know, like John Wall did last spring.
Otherwise, the penalties can be fairly pricey - from public warnings in year 1, to loss of scholarships and practice time in year 2, and ultimately leading to bans from postseason competition after that. And while this all might seem a bit harsh, now would probably be a good time to note that the APR is a measure that takes into account the most recent 4 years of performance at a given university. So while one poorly performing departing underclassman might negatively influence 1 season’s APR, there are still 3 other seasons that can offset it. The flip side of that, though, is the fact that any poor performance will stick with your school for a 4 year period.
Moral of the story: It will only hurt Kentucky to see underclassmen leave early to go to the NBA if those underclassmen fail to meet their minimum academic requirements. As long as those underclassmen keep their end of the deal, the Cats should be just fine as it relates to the APR.
So, if you’re still with me at this point, God bless your soul. I can only hope that I didn’t make you more confused in regards to the APR than you were before you started reading this.
But, since you’ve stuck with me this long, I’ll at least offer up this little carrot that I hope will make you smile…
You have no doubt heard about how much the Kentucky basketball program is making a mockery of the college experience, especially since these one-and-done players have come on board and ruined everything that was once good about college athletics. What you might not have heard though, is that of the 65 teams that played in last year’s NCAA tournament, 19 of them had APR scores below 925. Kentucky was not one of those teams and ended up putting 5 players into the league, 4 of them freshmen.
In fact, going into the 2010 NCAA tournament with those guys, the University of Kentucky’s men’s basketball team had an APR ranked in the top 10 of the 65 team field. And while that APR figure did not include numbers for teams prior to the 2007-08 team (the calculation is a lagging indicator that does not include the most recent graduating class), Kentucky’s APR score was good enough to place the university higher than reputable academic institutions such as Vanderbilt, Butler, Georgetown, and…you guessed it, Cornell.
See, sometimes all you can do is laugh.
True story: The first time I ever laid eyes on Daniel Orton was during the summer of 2008, when I spotted the then-high school junior while I was walking through the Atlanta airport during a layover. The young man was seated near a gate with several of his AAU teammates – including the now infamous Xavier Henry - presumably waiting to hop a flight to the next tournament on their summer schedule. Predictably, nearly all of the kids could be found either texting, sleeping, or listening to music.
All but one of them.
Daniel Orton was sitting right in the middle of his teammates, but rather than busting his eardrums or texting his boys back home, he was, instead, reading A Time to Kill, a novel by John Grisham.
In an airport. Between AAU basketball tournaments. During his summer break.
Right then and there, in the eyes of yours truly, Daniel Orton became the can’t miss prospect that my Kentucky Wildcats had to have. If nothing else, I assumed from this brief (non)encounter, this kid would be the type of student-athlete that would represent the UK basketball program the right way off the court and, more importantly, in the classroom.
(Side note: This should be evidence 1A that no one should ever question where the nation’s most passionate fans reside. I mean, how many places in this country do the state’s residents care enough to be able to accurately point out 5 star high school basketball prospects without warning? Exactly. Now, whether that’s something that should make us proud…or scared…well, I’ll let you decide. Moving on…)
Why do I bring all of this up, you ask? Well…
Yesterday, the NCAA released their most up-to-date APR report, and the Kentucky basketball team – much to the surprise of everyone – saw a 20+ point increase in their team APR.
Now, some will have you believe that the increase of 20+ points is in relation to no similar “Orton-like” decisions to make like Biggie and go back to Cali before the spring semester was over – for this year’s Cats.
However, if you take the time to look a bit closer into the report, you will quickly realize that the APR was hardly affected by this year’s team. In fact, last year’s actions of the big man from Oklahoma City didn’t negatively impact the results of the APR score, this year, due to two above-average APR scores from BCG teams. But it still could. The fact remains it’s a cumulative deal and compares year-over-year over a four year span. So if the Cats are to be impacted by Orton or Dodson it could be on next year’s score. So, for now the Cats are safe and do not risk losing a scholly.
So, what should you make of the APR report?
Not a lot. The Cats improved their score to 974, up 20 points from 954, still well above the NCAA’s mandated (four-year rolling score) of 925, and is within the 90th percentile.
If you ask me, well, I think that’s pretty darn good for a team that saw 5 underclassmen leave school early for the NBA. It shows me that, for the most part, this most recent group of Wildcats had enough foresight not to put into jeopardy the future of the University that they called home for a year (or, in the case of Pat, three). At the same time, it also means that with scores of 954 and 974, the 2010-11 and 2011-12 years are important to the UK basketball program.
And with that, you can mark my word on this: if the day comes when a quintet of Kentucky’s underclassmen make like Daniel Orton and leave early without finishing their school work, you won’t hear me screaming about how unfair it is. At this point, everyone knows the rules; if they don’t abide, there’s no one to blame but themselves.
In the meantime, I’m going to appreciate the hard work that 4 of last year’s 5 departed underclassmen put in, especially when they didn’t have to.
And I’m going to hope and pray that Coach Cal continues to recruit the type of player to Kentucky that will not only shine on the court, but who will assume the responsibility of finishing the spring semester in the classroom, as well.
After a year one saw him go 4 for 5, he’s certainly off to a good start. And with this year we project 3 Cats to add to that number in Enes Kanter, Brandon Knight and Deandre Liggins.
Which would make Cal 7-8 in two seasons on guys who leave early getting it done in the classroom.
Suck it Booby Knight!