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Jim Copeland's A.D. Notepad

Go smu!
Go smu!

Go smu!

February 28, 2005

Since the NCAA annual convention was held last month locally in Grapevine, there has been a lot of media exposure for the new Academic Progress Rate (APR) that has been instituted by the NCAA to hold Division I institutions accountable for the academic progress and graduation of their student-athletes receiving athletic financial aid. Today the NCAA released the APRs for more than 5,000 teams. The SMU athletic program received an APR of 962, well above the Division I average of 948. That is a tribute to our student-athletes (SA) and the academic support staff in the Altshuler Learning Enhancement Center. We have projected that our APR for fall 2005 will rise to 985.

Before evaluating our "report card," I would like to explain to you how the APR system works. It's complicated and imperfect at this stage of the program. Wally Renfro, who is the senior advisor to NCAA president Myles Brand, called the APR "very much an evolutionary process...we know that we could not have possibly anticipated all the situations that may arise." There will be changes and fine-tuning in the system before the fall of 2006 when contemporaneous penalties will be implemented based on APR data submitted by institutions for the 2003-04 and 2004-05 time periods.

The APR is a real-time assessment of each team's academic performance, measuring eligibility/graduation and retention for all student-athletes (SA) receiving athletic financial aid during an academic year. It is not a measurement of graduation rates. Once APRs for a team are accumulated over several years, there should be a correlation between a team's APR and its graduation rate.

  • The APR awards points each term to SAs who meet eligibility standards and remain at an institution. Examples:
    *For a SA to earn two points for a fall semester, the SA must return to the institution for the spring semester (1) and retain eligibility for competition for the spring semester (1). APR score: 2/2
    *For a SA to earn two points for a spring semester, the SA must return to the institution for the fall semester (1) and retain eligibility for competition for the fall semester (1). APR score: 2/2
    *A SA who graduates during either semester is awarded two points. APR score: 2/2
  • A team's APR is the total points earned by a team at a given time divided by total points possible. This percentage is multiplied by 1000 to achieve the final APR score. Example:
    *For the 2003-04 academic year, the SMU football team earned 326 points [corrected total] out of a possible 350 points for a raw APR score of .931 (93.1 percent). Raw APR .931 x 1000 = 931 final APR for 2003-04.
  • The term "0-for-2" is a four-letter word in the APR vocabulary. That's because SAs who leave an institution while academically ineligible receive an APR of 0/2, which is most damaging to a team's APR. SAs depart for a variety of reasons (transfer, personal reasons, turning pro...). While teams cannot always control the reasons SAs leave, they are held accountable by the APR system for making sure SAs are academically eligible during their college careers.
  • If a team's score is less than 925, it MIGHT be subject to a contemporaneous penalty, depending on a concept called "confidence boundary." NCAA statisticians came up with the APR cut score of 925, which they say translates to about a 50 percent federal graduation rate.
  • Small sample sizes of some teams can lead to reduced confidence in the APR as an estimate of academic performance of those teams. That is particularly true with only one or two years of data. Confidence intervals, commonly used in statistics, roughly represent a range of scores within which the true APR likely resides. If a team's APR is below 925 but its "upper confidence boundary" is greater than 925, then the team would not be subject to contemporaneous penalties. If the team's "upper confidence boundary" is less than 925, then a score under 925 would result in a contemporaneous penalty. Example:
    *The 2003-04 APR score for the SMU men's tennis team was 913 based on a roster of only eight SAs earning 21 out of 23 possible points. The men's tennis team "upper confidence boundary" is greater than 925 as calculated by the NCAA, so it would not be subject to a contemporaneous penalty.
  • As I mentioned earlier, contemporaneous penalties will be assessed in fall 2006 based on a team's APR 2003-04 and 2004-05 scores. Beginning in fall 2007, the APR will be based on four years of data. Every year thereafter, the most current year's data will be added and the oldest year of data removed, creating a four-year rolling rate. This multi-year rate will be determined by summing the numerators and denominators of all appropriate years and then dividing the overall numerator by the overall denominator.

    When imposed, contemporaneous penalties will restrict an institution's ability to re-award the grant-in-aid of a SA who left the institution and would not have been academically eligible had he/she returned. Teams with two-year APR scores AND upper confidence boundaries below 925 will be penalized. The penalties will be implemented only when these teams lose a SA who would not have been academically eligible had he/she returned (0-for-2). The teams will not be able to re-award the grant-in-aid to another SA for a period of one year. Examples:

  • Team APR is 940, two "0/2" SAs. Team is not subject to penalties because APR score is 925 or higher.
  • Team APR is 923; upper confidence boundary is above 925, two "0/2" SAs. Team is not subject to penalties even though APR is below 925 because upper confidence boundary is above 925.
  • Team APR is 923 and upper confidence boundary are below 925, two "0/2" SAs. Team is subject to penalties because APR and upper confidence boundary are below 925.

    The penalty must be imposed at the next opportunity, but not later than two academic years after the SA's departure. The penalties applicable to a team in any given year will be up to, but not more than 10 percent of the maximum financial aid team limit in that sport.

    None of SMU's team would have received penalties based on their APRs from 2003-04. Eight of our 16 teams had perfect 1,000 APRs - men's basketball, cross country, women's golf, men's soccer, men's swimming and diving, indoor and outdoor track, and volleyball.

    Only one SMU team fell below the 925 score, men's tennis, and that was due to one of those very unusual situations that Wally Renfro said the NCAA could not have anticipated. A SA who was academic all-conference three times and had a 3.77 GPA lost an APR point for the team that disproportionately impacted the APR for men's tennis because there were only eight players on the squad receiving athletic aid. The SA did not return for the fall semester because one of the courses he needed to graduate was offered only in the spring term. We will appeal the loss of that point.

    SMU provides all students with a challenging academic environment. Despite the time demands of being a varsity athletes, our SAs have fared very well. In the past 10 years, the graduation rate for SAs who completed their eligibility at SMU has been better than 96 percent.