Huskies exceed APR standards

SEATTLE - The good news is that the University of Washington has no problems when it comes to the NCAA's Academic Progress Rate (APR). In fact, every sport but two are ahead of the Division-1 standard, which is well ahead of the APR's mandated cut score of 925. But that doesn't mean the Huskies aren't doing what they can to make sure they account for things outside their control.

John Morris, Washington's Senior Associate Athletic Director for Compliance, said Tuesday that while he's happy with what he termed an overall 'upward trend', he knows the school still has to provide their student-athletes with all the tools and resources to continue to move closer to the department goal of having the highest APR score in every sport.

"Of course we always want to be the best, but we feel good about it," Morris told "There's always room for improvement.

"The tutoring budget has increased dramatically. We hired a full-time Life Skills Specialist and we have one Learning Specialist and we anticipate hiring another one. They work with students with learning disabilities or just need extra help. So one solution is to increase resources."

This newest report is based on a rolling four-year pool of data acquired from the years 2003 through 2007, as opposed to the six-year graduation-rate calculations the NCAA used in the past to determine whether or not a member institution was keeping up with prescribed academic benchmarks.

The APR was devised to measure a program's academic performance in 'real time', thus not allowing for those programs to let their student-athletes sluff off during a playing season, only to try and make up for lost time the rest of the academic year.

"I think it's a valuable metric so far," Morris said, adding that the jury was still out in terms of whether or not it's been worth the man-hours and resources taken from his staff in culling quarter-by-quarter academic reports on every single Washington student-athlete.

"It's interesting to see that coaches are aware of it, and I think one of the purposes might have been to get their attention a little bit more. Taking scholarships away is a means of doing that."

Washington State is feeling the pinch. Their score of 916 for football - combined with a number of what the NCAA terms '0-2' student-athletes (one who is neither academically eligible nor remains with the institution) led to the NCAA to levy a rather harsh penalty of eight scholarships lost for either the 2009 or 2010 recruiting seasons. The NCAA mandates the penalty be served at the earliest available opportunity within two years, but no later than that.

The irony is that WSU did not have the lowest APR for football in the Pac-10. Arizona had a score of 902, but weren't hit with any scholarship reductions because they didn't have any 0-2'ers and due to the team's demonstrated academic improvement and favorable comparison based on other academic or institutional factors.

Idaho was also hit with an eight scholarship penalty, but neither the Cougars or Vandals were hit hardest. That award goes to UAB, who lost nine - the maximum number. The NCAA will only allow a school to lose up to 10 percent of the total number of scholarships in any one sport.

"I don't think they (NCAA) are really wanting to punish people," Morris said. "I think they are trying to encourage improvement of graduation rates, and I think they felt that would be overly punitive, and a 10 percent cap would be a reasonable cap."

Morris added that the frist time the NCAA did the APR using a dry-run of available data, there was a Division-1 school that would have lost over 20 scholarships for football. "That would have brought a program to its absolute knees," he said.

Hence, the compromise. But in the case of the Huskies, their lowest-rated sport (women's tennis) had a score of 949, nearly 25 points higher than the needed 925. But there's an unforseen factor the NCAA uses - retention. And normally innocuous things like homesickness or a simple change in one's perogative can have negative repercussions. And it doesn't even matter if they were eligible at the time of their departure.

"In tennis there are so many international students, they may come for a year or two and then decide they don't want to be in the states anymore," he said. "If they go home, we'll lose the retention point."

Coaching changes is another thing that can adversely affect APR. And while the Washington women's basketball team was actually cited for academic achievement by this year's APR (998 score), the fact that Stefanie Clark, Kali Bennett, Jessica McCormack, Candice Nichols and Katelan Redmon all left the program during a coaching change will be a fact not gone unnoticed.

"We will lose retention points in women's basketball," Morris said, adding that he doesn't expect it will be anywhere near significant enough to drop the number to one of concern. "We've gotten recognition because our number has been so solid, but I expect our number to go down next year.

"There's not a lot you can do about the retention point, but you can put resources behind your academic support to keep the remaining student-athletes eligible throughout."

With the NBA taking younger and younger players, the NCAA has instituted a rule that would make the retention point moot for those players that were eligible and would have remained eligible at the time they turn pro. In the case of former Hoop Dawg Spencer Hawes, Washington had to document his academic standing in order to not get docked retention points.

Expect men's hoops to take a similar hit down the road with Adrian Oliver, Phil Nelson and Harvey Perry transferring out - but overall the APR for men's hoops is getting better. It went from 870 to the maximum of 1000 during Brandon Roy's senior year, the year that both Hans Gasser and Brandon Burmeister graduated. The 2006-2007 APR was 943, up from 935 a year ago.

There's a similar trend for football too. The team's APR went from 934 to 948, up 12 points from the Football Bowl Subdivision average. "He (UW Head Football Coach Tyrone Willingham) puts a huge emphasis on staying eligible term to term," Morris said.

"He has the right emphasis on it and I believe we will continue to trend upwards."
University of Washington NCAA Division I 2006 - 2007 Academic Progress Rate*

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