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Orange Hoops In The Clear For APR Report Cards

Like Oliver Luck, I’m going to take a break from the Big East meetings today and discuss something besides the conference schedule.

This week, the NCAA’s APR reports were released and Syracuse passed the threshold for good standing with a mark of 928 in the four-year period ending with the 2009-10 school year. For those who may be unfamiliar with the system, the Academic Progress Rate is a metric implemented by the NCAA in 2005 to motivate athletic programs to retain and graduate players. The numbers are calculated by taking the number of scholarships in a sport – that amount is 13 for basketball – and awarding one point per athlete for being academically eligible and one point for staying at the school. The APR is the number of total points on the roster at any given time divided by the number of points possible, multiplied by 1000 to eliminate the decimal you’ll get from that calculation.

The minimum APR score to keep in good standing with the NCAA is 925, so Syracuse just squeaked in. If a school scores below 925, they face NCAA sanctions in the form of pulling scholarships, which is what’s happening to Connecticut, and postseason furloughs, which will be felt by a handful of mid-majors in 2012. The reason the Orange’s APR mark is so close to that minimum is because the school is still paying for the early departures of Johnny Flynn, Eric Devendorf and Paul Harris, who left SU in poor academic standing in 2009. APR hits from players leaving early can be averted if they finish out the semester, as was the case with John Wall at Kentucky in 2010, but that wasn’t the case on the Hill.

One of the minutiae of the APR is that it’s always measured over the past four academic years, so players transferring or leaving school one year will have impacts that last longer than just the subsequent year. After Flynn, Devendorf and Harris left school, Jim Boeheim proactively took the two-scholarship hit for the 2009-10 season. For a couple of reasons, few seemed to notice. The first is because removing two scholarships from a 13-scholarship sport is a pretty inconsequential punishment when you think about the number of players who play significant roles. The second is because SU seemed to do just fine that season, setting up shop in the top five nearly all year and peaking at number one.

In my opinion, the APR, while well-intentioned, doesn’t work in practice. I’m all for making schools keep a watch on academics, but if, for example, a player transfers because he wants more playing time at another school or because the coach who recruited him moves on, the original school is going to take a hit in their APR if that player carries a GPA less than 2.6 (roughly a B-) on his way out. There was nothing Jim Boeheim could do to make his trio of players from 2009 finish school and prevent the hit. Additionally, non-power conference schools generally have fewer resources to devote to academic support than big-budget institutions, so the playing field isn’t level in that regard.

Still, as long as Syracuse stays on the good list, everything will be peachy.

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