Bulldogs Post High Scores In NCAA Academic Progress Rate
 
Women's golf was one of four Gonzaga sports to score a perfect 1000 in the APR.
Women's golf was one of four Gonzaga sports to score a perfect 1000 in the APR.

May 6, 2009

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. - Gonzaga University's athletic teams posted high scores in the latest NCAA Division I Academic Progress Rate report released Wednesday.

In April the Bulldogs had four teams - men's soccer, men's tennis, men's track and women's golf - earn NCAA Public Recognition Awards based on their most recent multi-year Academic Progress Rates. Gonzaga led all West Coast Conference teams with four sports honored. Wednesday the actual numbers were released with women's golf, men's tennis and men's outdoor track posting a perfect score of 1000 and men's soccer recording a 989.

The target number is 925 and higher for schools to avoid immediate penalties such as loss of scholarships and post-season bans, and Gonzaga's 13 teams to receive an APR score were well above 925.

"We're proud of our academic accomplishments," Gonzaga athletic director Mike Roth said. "Our APR results reflect the emphasis our coaches and support staff place on the academic as well as athletic performance of our student-athletes, and our student-athletes are to be commended for their high level of accomplishment in the classroom."

In addition to the four programs receiving Public Recognition Awards, scores for Gonzaga's teams were baseball (968), men's basketball (975), men's cross country (974), men's golf (991), women's basketball (981), women's rowing (998), women's soccer (993), women's tennis (989) and women's volleyball (994). Only NCAA sponsored sports are given APR scores, and an institution must have a student-athlete on athletic financial aid in a sport to receive an APR score.

The overall four-year Division I Academic Progress Rate is up three points to 964, and the number of student-athletes earning neither the retention nor the eligibility point ("0-for-2s") continues to decline.

Those highlights in the fifth year of APR data announced Wednesday appear to be the product of a confluence of rule changes that began in 2003 - including increased progress-toward-degree benchmarks, greater core-course requirements and more stringent standards for transfers.

"This is very positive information," said Walter Harrison, chair of the Committee on Academic Performance and president of the University of Hartford. "We should all take great satisfaction that a lot of work over a lot of years by a lot of people has resulted in the increased academic performance of student-athletes. Nothing happens overnight; it happens gradually."

Most notably, APRs rose in baseball, football and men's basketball - sports that have faced academic challenges in the past. Baseball and men's basketball improvements were more dramatic than football, which continues to make progress but at a much slower rate than the other two sports, particularly in eligibility rates. Baseball's four-year APR is 946, while men's basketball posted a 933 APR. Football's APR is 939. Over the past five years, the single-year APR in baseball has risen 31 points, while single-year rates in both men's basketball and football have risen nearly 18 points.

Because the APR system is structured for penalties to become progressively more severe if a team's academic under-performance continues over time, this is the first year for the postseason-ban penalty, applied to teams that register a multi-year APR below 900 for three consecutive years without demonstrating measurable improvement. Two teams were assessed the postseason ban penalty this year; a third team's decision is pending. All teams subject to the postseason ban had the opportunity for a hearing before the Committee on Academic Performance.

Eligibility rates in men's basketball continued the sharp increases seen last year, and retention rates rose as well. Some of the retention increase can be attributed to an adjustment in the APR calculation that allows student-athletes earning a 2.6 grade-point average and meeting other academic requirements to transfer without losing the retention point. Data reveal that student-athletes fitting this academic profile go on to graduate at rates similar to student-athletes who do not transfer.

Additionally, baseball eligibility and retention rates improved dramatically, in part because of academic reforms that require transfers to leave an institution eligible in order to receive athletics aid at a subsequent institution. New rules also require student-athletes to be academically eligible going into the fall term to participate in spring competition.

While dramatic increases were noted in both baseball and men's basketball, football eligibility rate increases were not commensurate with eligibility improvement in most other sports. The Football Academic Working Group is looking to identify problems and solutions.

Another concern was in women's basketball, where the number of 0-for-2s increased significantly from 2006-07 to 2007-08. Overall eligibility rates have decreased over the past two years in that sport as well.

Overall, though, the single-year APR of Division I student-athletes rose to 971, with increases in both eligibility and retention and a continued decrease in the number of student-athletes leaving school while academically ineligible (0-for-2s). The number of 0-for-2s has declined from 3.6 percent of the total student-athlete cohort in 2003-04 to only 2.6 percent in the 2007-08 data collection year (910 student-athletes).

Eligibility rates rose two points, while retention was up nearly six. The addition of the policy allowing student-athletes meeting a specific academic profile to transfer without losing the retention point elevated APRs, but even when that adjustment is removed, retention still rose four points in the last five years. Also notable is that over the past five years, 5,673 delayed-graduation points were awarded, with 48 percent of the total occurring in men's revenue sports (basketball, baseball and football). In the last year, 1,370 delayed-graduation points were earned, similar to the number earned last year.

The number of teams not meeting the benchmarks for historically based penalties (900 APR) and more immediate penalties (925 APR) fell dramatically over the last four years, with a remarkable drop occurring in the last year.

This is the fourth year of immediate penalties and the third for historically based penalties. Teams with two consecutive years of under-performance are subject to scholarship losses and restricted practice time. The postseason ban applies in year three. Possible restricted Division I membership for the entire athletics department results if a team has four consecutive years of poor academic performance.

A total of 75 squads did not earn an APR of 900 or higher and will receive historically based penalties [40 received the public warning for the first stage, 30 received the scholarship and playing and practice season restrictions in the second stage and two were assessed the postseason ban (one additional postseason ban is pending), in addition to other penalties.] A total of 104 squads will be assessed more immediate penalties for not achieving a 925 APR.

Nine teams that were granted full or partial relief from scholarship losses and practice-time reduction last year will be assessed the penalty this year. The initial relief was granted subject to the teams meeting criteria that included minimum APR benchmarks, and the teams did not satisfy some or all of the conditions for that relief.

Every Division I sports team calculates its APR each academic year, based on the eligibility, retention and graduation of each scholarship student-athlete. Teams that score below 925 and have a student leave school academically ineligible can lose up to 10 percent of their scholarships through contemporaneous penalties. Teams can also be subject to historically based penalties for poor academic performance over time. This year will be the first year teams will be assessed a postseason ban for continued poor academic performance.

APR scores per institution, along with penalties by school, sport and penalty type and teams receiving public recognition, are available online at www.ncaa.org.

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