APR Paints with Broad Brush

With the details of new academic reforms put in place by the National Collegiate Athletics Association finally revealed in February of this year, coaches and administrators are now preparing to deal with the consequences of the new academic progress ratings (APR).

Alabama's basketball program had a perfect APR score of 1,000, but because of the loss Glenn Miles, Akini Adkins and Kennedy Winston before they graduated the squad could potentially face scholarship cuts when the new scores are released later this year.

Coach Mark Gottfried has an excellent record of graduating player who stay at Alabama throughout their four years, but he is not immune from being painted with APR's broad brush.

"The hardest thing is there's very little room for error," Gottfried said. "If a player transfers or a player enters the NBA draft it doesn't take very many of those for you to lose a scholarship. There's a lot of concern with different coaches because there's a lot of things we feel like we can't control. It's an uncertain time."

The initial scores that were released came from the 2003-2004 academic year. These scores will be combined with results from the 2004-2005 academic year to comprise the first score that could impact scholarship numbers as soon as December of this year.

Schools need to maintain an APR score of 925 or higher to keep clear of any scholarship hits. The schools learned of the cut score in January of this year.

Baseball and other programs aside from football and basketball around the country are in an even more precarious position because it is easier for them to transfer. Additionally, baseball loses more players to the professional ranks than any other sport.

Charlie Carr, a senior associate director of athletics at Florida State, wrote in the March 28 issue of the NCAA News that those unique circumstances "combine to make a distorted comparison to other sports and most importantly to the cut score of the APR."

Coaching staffs and administrators have little to no influence on the actions which result in point loss in the APR.

"Like in our case. Taylor Tankersey was a very good student. He signed in the first round and we lose a point," Alabama Baseball Coach Jim Wells said. "A guy may be a great student, drop a class and sign (professionally), still be a 3.0 student, but he doesn't have 24 (hours needed to remain eligible). We lose two points."

Alabama's baseball APR was 957 in the first round of scoring, above the APR cut score of 925. But that does not stop the worrying that circumstances beyond their control will cost scholarships.

"I don't understand this legislating, making people do the right thing when you should have people in place who are wanting to do that anyway. It hurts us because our sport is different from all those other sports," Wells said.

Despite some concerns, the APR is now a reality in college athletics.

"The rules are as they are, for now. They're here.," Gottfried said. "As coaches we just have to do the best job they can."

University of Hartford President Walter Harrison, who chairs the Division I Committee on Academic Performance (the rule makers) was not immediately available for comment, but he recently told the NCAA News "The easiest way to avoid penalties is to have student-athletes who are academically eligible."

The Alabama football squad's struggling APR score has also been highly publicized. The team's APR did not fare well, scoring in a range that would subject the squad to scholarship reductions ("contemporaneous penalties" in NCAA lexicon) if there is no improvement in the next grading cycle.

The penalties would last one year. The scores were only preliminary, however, much like a mid-term grade for the universities athletic programs.

Alabama's score in football was 880, in the lower ranges among NCAA football programs and last in the Southeastern Conference.

"When you see 16 seniors, 12 of them who had their degrees and two more that will get them this spring, it makes you feel pretty good," Tide Head Coach Mike Shula said recently of his the 2004 squad. "And yet how all these rates are determined, we still have a lot of work to do to get to where we going to feel comfortable. I'm not sure anybody will ever feel comfortable any year as far as being susceptible to losing scholarships for a year for being below a certain cutoff point."

How the APR Score is Derived

The NCAA imposed a system that purports to measure each team's "academic progress rate" (or APR) and assess penalties in the form of scholarship reductions to those schools not living up to the standards set.

The idea is far more simple that the actual scoring and penalty system.

Each player on athletic scholarship represents two points that can be earned for the squad in a semester. A player earns one point per semester by maintaining his academic eligibility and another point for enrolling at the same school in the following semester. The total number of points earned is then divided by the total number of points possible yielding a percentage. That percentage is multiplied by 1,000 just for looks.

If the APR score stays above 925 there is no chance of scholarship reductions. If a squad is below the 925 cut score, however, one must review each athlete's records to determine the number of penalties to be assessed. In that case, for each student who scored zero of two possible points there will be a reduction of one scholarship from the total allowed in that particular sport. Therefore, the number of "0-for-2"s are directly linked to the number of scholarship losses.

There is a 10 per cent yearly cap (rounded up to the next whole number) on the total number of scholarships that can be taken. For example, football could lose no more than nine scholarships per year of the 85 which teams are allowed.

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