"The confidence boundary and squad size adjustments account for the relatively small dataset we have," said Bob Williams of the NCAA. "This is only the third year of the APR, so we have to make those adjustments so that we don't penalize schools due to statistical reasons. It's similar to the margin of error in a poll."
While that adjustment was good news for WVU and numerous other schools this year, the bad news is that those adjustments will go away next year, when the NCAA will be dealing with data over a four-year period. At that point, any individual team that scores less than 925 points will be subject to penalties.
"You look at the APR as it relates to individual teams, not as a combined score," said Williams. "If a team is below the limits, that team can lose scholarships."
While West Virginia has five teams that are currently below the cutoff score of 925 (see table at right), that doesn't automatically mean they are in jeopardy for next year. The addition of the fourth year of academic performance of the members of those teams will have a significant impact on WVU's APR scores for next year. And since schools and the NCAA do not release the number of points earned by individual student-athletes, it is impossible to predict what next year's scores might be. Of the five teams in question, only wrestling needs significant improvement in order to meet the qualifying levels.
Teams failing to meet minimum APR levels can be subject to contemporaneous penalties (based on the year-to-year APR) and historical penalties (based on the rolling rate of the team's APR over the previous four years). Penalties can range from loss of practice time and scholarships all the way to bans on post-season play.
The APR is calculated by examining each student-athlete receiving athletic aid in a varsity sport. Each student-athlete can earn points for being academically eligible and remaining enrolled in the institution. A team's APR is the total points of the roster divided by that squad's total possible points, multiplied by 1000. Penalties for teams falling below the specified mark may include the loss of one or more scholarships up to a cap of 10% of the team's total NCAA scholarship aid available.
Although the confidence boundary will disappear next year, Williams noted that other adjustments can still be made to a school's APR. In addition to standard exemptions for things such as early graduations or departures for professional careers while in good academic standing, other situations can also factor into the equation.
"We recognize that unique situations can occur at schools or on certain teams, and we will work with them to resolve those issues," Williams said.
An example would be schools along the Gulf Coast affected by Hurricane Katrina or those affected in other extraordinary manners.
Of the 6,110 teams included in the most recent APR, 81 received scholarship reductions this year for failure to meet standards. Forty-nine of those teams will be subject to further penalties under the historical penalties standards if they do not show improvement this year.