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Latest NCAA Academic Progress Rates: Most Division I teams post top grades
INDIANAPOLIS—The report cards are in – and they keep getting better.
The vast majority of sports teams at Division I colleges and universities are meeting the mark in the classroom, according to the latest NCAA Academic Progress Rates.
“Division I student-athletes and their teams continue to make steady academic progress,” said NCAA Interim President Jim Isch. “The report cards keep getting better and better for nearly all teams and all schools.”
The overall multi-year Division I APR is 967, up three points from last year. In the high-profile sports, football’s average four-year APR is 944, up five points over last year; men’s basketball is 940, up seven points; and baseball is 954, up eight points.
Each Division I sports team calculates its APR each academic year, based on the eligibility and retention of each scholarship student-athlete. Teams scoring below 925 out of 1,000 can face penalties, such as scholarship losses and restrictions on practice and competition. Rates are based on the past four years’ performance.
Success stories continue to emerge from the APR data, including the tremendous turnaround in men’s baseball and top academic marks for men’s ice hockey. The high-profile sports of men’s basketball and football are improving overall as well.
In addition, fewer student-athletes are leaving school ineligible, while more than 7,000 student-athletes have returned to campus and earned their degrees in the past six years.
With better report cards come fewer demerits. This year, 137 teams at 80 schools have been penalized for poor academic performance. Last year, 177 teams at 107 schools received penalties, and two years ago 213 teams at 123 schools were sanctioned. There are currently more than 6,400 teams in Division I.
But as the academic reform movement hits its sixth year, APR figures reveal additional challenges, Isch said.
These include the overall academic performance of transfer students; retention issues in men’s basketball; eligibility concerns in football; and the performance of men’s basketball teams at some low-resource institutions.
Still, the APR data over time reveal a number of positive trends.
While the four-year Division I APR rose three points compared to last year’s multi-year rate, the overall single-year rate has jumped 12 points to 973 compared to six years ago. The overall single-year retention rate has climbed 15 points to 969 and the eligibility rate has risen eight points to 973.
Even when considering the recent APR adjustment that allows certain student-athletes to transfer without penalty, the single-year APR has risen eight points over the past six years and the retention rate has risen five points.
In the past six years, the single-year APR in baseball has risen 32 points, while the single-year APR has risen 20 points in men’s basketball and 19 points in football.
Baseball’s increase is attributed to a number of sport-specific policy changes supported by the baseball community and NCAA presidents and chancellors.
Baseball student-athletes must be academically eligible heading into the fall semester to take part in spring competition. Teams must provide minimum financial aid for all baseball student-athletes, and the one-time transfer exception for baseball was eliminated.
Moreover, all student-athletes who transfer must leave an institution academically eligible to receive a scholarship at another institution.
Men’s ice hockey is being singled out for its exceptional success. The sport’s multi-year APR is 975, the second-highest for all men’s sports after gymnastics. Its single-year rate this year is 981, the highest of all men’s sports and up 14 points over the past four years.
Compared to 2004-05, the first year of APR penalties, there are 1,003 fewer student-athletes this year who are “0-for-2.” This designation defines student-athletes who leave school academically ineligible and do not earn either point in the APR calculation.
Students considered 0-for-2 now account for just 2.5 percent of all Division I student-athletes and are down 27 percent since 2004-05.
In comparison, 7,058 former Division I student-athletes have returned to college to earn their degrees in the past six years. In the process, they earned a bonus point in the APR calculation for their former team. Almost half of these students – 47 percent – competed in men’s basketball, football and baseball.
NCAA officials point to a number of policy adjustments over the years that have resulted in the improved academic performance.
These adjustments include more stringent progress-toward-degree requirements for current student-athletes; increased core-course requirements for incoming student-athletes; a rule allowing student-athletes who fit a certain academic profile to transfer without penalty; requiring transfer student-athletes to earn the eligibility point to receive financial aid at the school to which they are transferring; and the policy changes in baseball.
“We are making progress in significant ways, but we cannot rest until we fulfill on the promise to educate all student-athletes,” Isch said.
With the Division I academic reform effort entering its seventh year, the NCAA will focus on a number of efforts to address the challenges of low-performing students and teams.
Isch said the NCAA will seek to enhance its communication with the two-year college community, as APR data reveal challenges for transfers from these institutions.
The 2008-09 APR for two-year transfer students is only 926. It drops to 912 in men’s basketball, 894 for football teams in the Bowl Subdivision and 888 for football teams in the Championship Subdivision.
While men’s basketball and football keep improving overall, Isch noted that these sports continue to post the lowest multi-year APRs of all sports. Men’s basketball lags behind all others in earning the retention point in the APR calculation, while football trails all sports on eligibility points earned.
The basketball and football academic enhancement groups have taken steps to address these issues.
“My hope is that we will see some of the same success in men’s basketball and football that we’ve seen in baseball based on sport-specific policy changes,” Isch said.
Isch said the Association will work closely with low-resource institutions as well as they seek to improve the academic performance of their student-athletes. The APR data show some concern with men’s basketball teams at these schools.
The latest single-year APR for men’s basketball teams at low-resource colleges and universities is 885; the latest single-year APR for all other men’s basketball teams is 956.
These efforts will include work with the NCAA’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities Advisory Committee; promoting academic support grant monies set aside in Division I for these institutions; the sharing of best practices among institutions; and increased emphasis and resources from the national office devoted to working even more closely with low-resource institutions.
Walter Harrison, president of the University of Hartford and chair of the Division I Committee on Academic Performance, emphasized a number of initiatives that CAP and the NCAA will undertake in the future to address these issues and future academic reform efforts overall.
These include a continued focus on strengthening campus academic improvement plans; each team scoring below 925 must develop such a plan, and teams below 900 APR must submit those plans to the national office.
“Those teams and schools with broad-based approaches have been successful—and we are seeing more of them,” Harrison said. “As a result, we have fewer teams subject to penalties this year.”
Harrison noted that CAP will further study the APR penalty structure and consider possible adjustments to the penalty benchmarks to motivate future academic success.
Finally, Harrison and Isch stressed that CAP will continue its review of the APR and penalty benchmarks and how well they predict future graduation. Because of changes over time to elements of academic reform, the APR calculation and threshold scores may need to be adjusted to ensure continued correlation to an acceptable minimum GSR.
Currently, an APR score of 925 predicts an approximately 50 percent GSR. An APR of 900 – the threshold for more severe penalties over time – currently predicts an approximately 40 percent GSR. CAP is expected to advance recommendations to the Division I Board of Directors in the next few months.
Teams that score below 925 on their four-year rate and have a student leave school academically ineligible can lose up to 10 percent of their scholarships through immediate penalties. Teams also can face historically based penalties for poor academic performance over time.
This is the fifth year of immediate penalties and the fourth for historically based penalties. Teams facing a third year of historically based penalties can be banned from postseason play, in addition to scholarship losses and restricted practice time resulting from a second year of long-term sanctions.
Institutions can face restricted Division I membership for the entire athletics department if a team has four consecutive years of poor academic performance.
The number of teams not meeting the benchmarks for historically based penalties (900 APR) and more immediate penalties (925 APR) continues to decline. Less than six percent of teams have multi-year APR scores below 925, and less than two percent have multi-year APR scores under 900.
On the penalty side of academic reform, 137 teams at 80 different colleges and universities have received an immediate or historical sanction.
A total of 79 teams did not earn a 925 APR and had a student-athlete leave school ineligible, and they have incurred immediate scholarship losses. Eleven teams have lost immediate scholarships and received the first historically based penalty (public warning) as well for posting an APR below 900.
Another 15 teams under 900 APR received a public warning; 31 teams received practice restrictions; and one has received a postseason ban.
Nine other teams faced the possibility of a championship ban but received conditional waivers this year because of demonstrated academic improvement. Six of those teams received scholarship and/or practice time penalties and three received waivers from all penalties. These teams must remain above the historical penalty threshold for three straight years or face the postseason ban penalty in the future.
Last month, 841 teams were publicly recognized for posting multi-year APRs in the top 10 percent of each sport.
The most recent APR scores are multi-year rates based on the scores from the 2005-06, 2006-07, 2007-08 and 2008-09 academic years.