Most DI teams post top grades
Latest data shows continued impact of academic reforms
INDIANAPOLIS -- The majority of Division I sports teams are posting top grades, according to the NCAA's latest Academic Progress Rates.
The most recent four-year Division I APR is 973, up three points over last year. The average four-year rate also rose in the high-profile sports of men's basketball, football and baseball.
Now in its ninth year, APR is resulting in real measurable impacts, said NCAA President Mark Emmert.
"We expect student-athletes to meet their dual responsibilities, and most of them are doing so," Emmert said.
In the NCAA's highest profile sports, the average four-year APR for men's basketball is 950, up five points over last year; football is 948, up two points; and baseball is 965, up six points.
Through APR, nearly 10,000 former student-athletes have returned to campus and earned their degrees in the past eight years. In the process, their teams earned an extra APR point. Of these 9,822 students, almost half (4,505) were in men's basketball, football and baseball.
"That is real impact," Emmert said.
Every Division I sports team calculates its APR each academic year, based on the eligibility and retention of each scholarship student-athlete. Teams scoring below certain thresholds can face sanctions, such as scholarship losses and restrictions on practice. Rates are based on the past four years' performance.
Emmert stressed that APRs over time have seen dramatic improvement. Year-to-year comparisons, though, are showing some flattening out over time and even some slight decreases, which is not unexpected, he added.
At the same time, teams performing at the low end of the APR scale are doing better, Emmert said.
The Division I Board of Directors last fall approved tougher academic standards, including setting a new standard that teams must meet to compete in the postseason.
The standard for postseason access starts at 900 APR but over the next few years climbs to 930, which equates to a 50 percent Graduation Success Rate. To assist limited-resource institutions, the board gave these schools and their teams more flexibility to meet the standards.
According to the latest APR figures, 15 teams will not have access to the postseason for the 2012-13 season, compared to only eight last season.
"This is not a penalty -- it's our expectation," Emmert said. "Just as a team needs a winning record to make the playoffs or the tournament, they need a winning record in the classroom as well."
The 15 include 10 men's basketball teams, three football teams, one men's soccer team and one wrestling team.
In terms of penalties, 35 teams with APRs below 900 (out of 54) are facing sanctions next season including restrictions on practice and regular season competition and other penalties, including reductions in scholarships. All 15 teams that lost postseason access also have APR penalties.
Emmert emphasized that the current Division I reform package will lead to greater impact in the future, particularly with increased academic standards for incoming students and transfers from two-year colleges.
Emmert said the higher standards are needed to address key areas in need of additional improvement, including men's basketball and football. While APRs have gotten better over time in these two high-profile sports, they are still the lowest among all NCAA sports.
Support from NCAA member colleges and universities has been critical in developing the higher standards, said Walter Harrison, chair of the NCAA Committee on Academic Performance and president of the Hartford.
"These changes will lead to higher academic expectations and better-prepared students coming to our colleges and universities," Harrison said.
To ensure fairness in APR, the NCAA provides adjustments for student-athletes who transfer with certain grade point averages and those who leave in good academic standing for professional athletics careers.
This past year, 702 student-athletes were granted APR adjustments for professional departures, out of 6,412 Division I sports teams. Almost half (44 percent) were in baseball. Of the 64 adjustments for men's basketball, only five were for first-year college student-athletes.
There are 1,068 fewer student-athletes this year who are "0-for-2," compared to 2004-05, the first year of APR penalties. This term defines student-athletes who leave school academically ineligible and do not earn either point in the APR calculation.
After years of decline, there was a slight increase in the number of 0-for-2 students in 2010-11 compared to the previous year. The increase of 94 students was mostly in sports other than men's basketball and football.
Still, the number of students considered 0-for-2 is down 27 percent since 2004-05 and account for only 2.4 percent of Division I student-athletes.
Last week, 954 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 2007-08, 2008-09, 2009-10 and 2010-11 academic years.
APR scores per institution, along with penalties per school and teams receiving public recognition, are available online through the NCAA's searchable database.