Like me, I know a lot of you are interested to learn more about the APR mess at Portland State left behind by new WSU coach Ken Bone.
It's kind of the giant pink elephant in the room in what has been an otherwise amazing first month on the job for Bone. We've come to take pride in our basketball team's ability to not just play great, but perform in the classroom as well. And, to be frank, after what we went through with the football team last year, the academic trends at PSU are a little scary.
So, do we have reason to be scared? Is there reason to think that Bone might be bringing a philosophy that's destined to cause problems?
While Bone has been relatively mum on the issue so far, new PSU coach Tyler Geving -- Bone's top assistant for all four years -- is speaking out for the first time, telling The Oregonian that there is plenty of blame to go around for the mess the Vikings are in:
"We as coaches need to do a better job of evaluating who we're bringing in and making sure that academics are a priority to them," Geving said. "I don't think that you can point the finger at just one person or thing for this whole situation.
"The coaches have to hold the players more accountable, and the players have to want to get their degree. It has to mean something to them. And our academic support group has to do a better job. ... There's a lot of blame to go around, but we also have an opportunity to fix it."
In one sense, this ought to be just a little scary -- Bone bears some responsibility for the poor evaluations that led to bringing in players for whom making progress towards a degree was not a priority. Some of that is chalked up in the story to Bone trying to get the program off the ground, presumably because getting talented players to come to Portland State proved to be a challenge. That doesn't exactly inspire confidence that this is more of a PSU issue than a Bone issue, as WSU suffers from many of the same challenges as Portland State. Will he be tempted to take the same risks to add talent here?
Later in the story, Geving reiterates his point that much of the responsibility rests with the players, saying that the coaching staff was doing plenty to try and make sure the players were making academic progress:
"I think the perception is that we've sitting around as coaches and we don't care if the guys go to class or not. That's not the case," Geving said. "I don't think people realize sometimes how many hours we spend with our guys on their academics, but maybe what we were doing wasn't enough."
The story is a nice mea culpa, but this is precisely the kind of lazy journalism that drives me absolutely bananas.
The reporter states that the APR problems are due to "the departure of several stars and scrubs alike before they got within shouting distance of a diploma." No kidding! Anyone who is familiar with the APR formula knows that. Now, how about being a good journalist and documenting who these players are and try to find out how and why it happened? It wouldn't even take that much effort. Because Portland State is a public institution, most of that kind of information would absolutely be available under the Freedom of Information Act. And even if some of the names would be redacted under FERPA, the mathematics of the APR are simple enough that it wouldn't be difficult to figure out how the NCAA arrived at its score.
Later in the story, Geving implies that part of the issue is that the APR is flawed, lamenting that they're going to take a hit next year from a player who's leaving right now in good academic standing. While that's technically true, you don't get 78 points below the NCAA's minimum threshold from players like that. Allowing a statement like that to go unchecked is irresponsible by the writer. Yet, it happens over and over again in the story. Geving says the coaches are spending "hours" with guys on their acadmics. No verification. Geving says they're going to "clean up this mess." No follow up question on how.
Rather than just taking what the coach says at face value, why not do a little digging to try and find out just what kinds of academic development tools were in place, and compare those with the resources at other schools? And then, how about getting some specifics on how exactly Portland State plans on righting this ship -- especially when you consider that their football team, men's track team, and now-defunct wrestling team also incurred penalties over the past two years. Yet, there's no mention in the story of the potential institutional issues that could be behind this.
Is Jim Beseda a bad journalist? Probably not (although his bio page doesn't exactly help us answer the question). More than likely, he doesn't want to dig too much so as to piss off a new coach and risk losing access. I'm going to choose to believe that, rather than the alternative, because the alternative is awful to think about.
But if I'm a Portland State fan, that's just not good enough. I want to know why this happened and how it's not going to happen again. If I'm a WSU fan -- which I am -- I want to know whether I have to worry about a similar fate at my school. This story, which is little more than a public relations piece on behalf of Geving, does nothing to answer the real issues.
So, here we wait, hoping somebody finally asks the right questions. Until then, we're left to just wonder.