Tuesday, July 13, 2010

APR versus real academic progress

It's called APR, short for academic progress rate. Instituted in 2005, it's the NCAA measurement for college sports teams.

Here's the Wikipedia definition: a metric established by the NCAA to measure the success or failure of collegiate athletic teams in moving student-athletes towards graduation.

The theory/reality is that the APR is designed to publicly 'expose' coaches and athletic directors giving lip service to academics and 'reward' those seemingly committed to an emphasis on working towards a degree.

However, the tremendous disparity in college athlete academic service budgets -- millions of dollars at some BCS institutions versus a veritable collecting recyclables to fund the assistance at many other schools -- is not factored into the APR equation.

Plus, the coaches at the higher level schools also complain that the preparation necessary to perform one's best in NBA draft tryouts interferes with their respective stars finishing out semesters/quarters. The NBA realistically forces a prep basketballer into a year, sometimes two, of college attendance due to its age limit even when there is no desire on the player to be situated in the halls of higher education. These coaches deem any APR calculation is inherently unfair without taking such a factor into consideration.

Like with most legislative efforts of any manner, one size is supposed to but doesn't fit all.

Individual explanations pertaining to the failure of certain student-athletes to progress or graduate are inexplicably not allowed.

It's fair to call it a sledgehammer employed to catch fireflies approach to confronting a problem.

Imitating the late Walter Cronkite, that's the way it is -- for better and for worse.

Closer to home, the collective academic standing of San Jose State men's basketball was submerged, to put it mildly, in 2005. Making progress wasn't emphasized, funded or staffed, and it truly appeared that no one cared.

Since that dead end five years ago, tremendous work was done and continues to take place to pull SJSU hoops out of an academic morass.

How so?

To the best of our knowledge, only three players since 2005 have decided -- THEIR CHOICE -- not to finish the units necessary to earn their respective college degrees. Each was provided that opportunity to complete the coursework but declined.

This ratio indicates an extremely positive trend underway -- no, make that a norm -- now at Washington Square for men's basketball.

This certainly raises a question: should a school be penalized for enrolling a student-athlete who ultimately decides not to avail himself of the assistance in place for him earning a degree?

If the answer is yes, why so? Is the thinking that the coach and school shouldn't have recruited this individual in the first place and therefore a penalty must be paid?

That might be fair in some cases but generally the ones involving student-athletes flunking out early on in college. But not so for a student-athlete who enjoyed solid academic progress for two or three years who then decided to move on to another chapter in his life.

But fairness, of course, isn't found anywhere in the NCAA by-laws and regulations.

However, that shouldn't stop us from being proud of the verifiable academic progress made by all involved in Spartan men's basketball.

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