WSU Makes The Grade With APR In 2010-2011, But Questions Loom

Have Ken Bone's academic progress rate issues followed him to WSU from Portland State?

The NCAA released its annual academic progress rate data yesterday, and the good news is that all of WSU's programs posted a four-year rolling average above the mandated minimum of 925.

That doesn't mean the news was all good, though, especially for the two sports you're most interested in.

Before diving into some brief analysis of the numbers, here's a description of how the NCAA calculates APR, copied and pasted from a post I did on the topic last summer. If you already know how it works, or just don't care how it actually works, go ahead and skip past the big gray blockquote that follows:

Just so you have an understanding of what the numbers mean, here's a brief explanation of how the annual scores are calculated, from the NCAA:

Each student-athlete receiving athletically related financial aid earns one retention point for staying in school and one eligibility point for being academically eligible. A team’s total points are divided by points possible and then multiplied by one thousand to equal the team’s Academic Progress Rate score.

This is calculated each semester, making each student-athlete "worth" four points every year. According to the NCAA, there are also adjustments that can be made for "student-athletes in good academic standing who leave school early to pursue a professional career, student-athletes who transfer to another school while meeting minimum academic requirements and student-athletes who return to graduate at a later date." This minimizes the impact of circumstances that are out of the school's control.

Scoring less than 925 on the rolling four-year score can lead to penalties like the eight-scholarship reduction football suffered a few years ago.

Here's the hypothetical situation the NCAA uses to show how to arrive at the number:

A Division I Football Bowl Subdivision team awards the full complement of 85 grants-in-aid. If 80 student-athletes remain in school and academically eligible, three remain in school but are academically ineligible and two drop out academically ineligible, the team earns 163 of 170 possible points for that term. Divide 163 by 170 and multiply by 1,000 to determine that the team’s Academic Progress Rate for that term is 959.

No real mystery here. Each player is worth four potential points, and the ultimate score is just the percentage of points earned multiplied by 1000 to get a nice, round, number.

We already know the two sports you care most about were above 925 and were not assessed any penalties. But it's worth digging into the numbers a little bit to see if we should be getting worried that penalties are coming in the future.

Apr_basketball_-_football

Football

Football's overall rolling average is trending upwards, which is good. But you can mostly thank that brutal 874 dropping off the rolling average for that one. More pertinent is that the 874 was replaced by just a 910. Thanks to our friend Captain Math and his trusty tool algebra, we can figure out that the football team probably lost around 30 of its possible points.

It's nearly impossible to figure out how the team lost those points, but we know that 30 points is the equivalent of 15 guys leaving the program at the end of the year after not making satisfactory progress towards graduation in spring semester. When you think of guys like Andre Barrington and Jamal Atofau leaving the program, and other guys such as Arthur Burns who we are fairly sure were academic casualties, it's not hard to see how it happened. There also were a good number of transfers, which can result in a loss of a point even if the player is in good academic standing.

Is this 910 a huge deal going forward? Probably not, but it's not a slam dunk. A 926 is going to drop off the four-year score in 12 months, but it's actually probably reasonable to expect another pretty low score next June. Think about the guys who have left the program this academic year who were academic question marks (C.J. Mizell, Sekope Kaufusi, T.J. Poloai) and then the other guys who were likely in good standing who have simply left the program (Aaron Dunn, Max Gama, Jordan Pu'u Robinson). However, unless the score is below 893 next year, the team will stay above 925 at that time thanks to two good scores in the middle of Paul Wulff's tenure.

As for the years following, two low scores won't be a killer as long as Mike Leach does what he did at Texas Tech, posting an average of 939 in the seven years APR was recorded during his tenure. It's important to note, however, that Leach's scores were higher in his final few years, raising the average. It'll be important for him to continue that.

Men's Basketball

Basketball is much more troubling to me than football. The four-year score is obviously still very high, but the 900 is concerning -- especially in light of Ken Bone's history at Portland State.

Again, it's not hard to figure out where the low score came from. Although we don't know exactly how it the final score was reached, we know Klay Thompson and DeAngelo Casto turned pro and didn't finish out spring semester; the departure of that pair probably is where the bulk of the low score comes from. (By the way, you can see just how easy it is for a smaller team to get hammered on APR. If you've wondered why a lot of people don't like this system ... well, now you know.)

This score isn't a problem by itself. If the team posts another low single-year score for 2011-2012, the 1000 that will be part of next year's score and the 963 that will be part of the next two scores should mitigate that, so it's not like I'm concerned about penalties in the near term. But Bone posted some horrendously low scores at Portland State -- the Vikings averaged a score of 865 (!!!) in the five academic years Bone was a part of, including an 814 in his last full year there. PSU was hit with scholarship reductions, practice restrictions and a postseason ban immediately after his departure.

Obviously, WSU has greater academic resources than Portland State, which should keep the score high enough. But when you combine the low scores at Portland State with the downward trend at WSU, there's reason to wonder if a big problem might be coming down the pike. We've seen that Bone likes to take recruiting risks that might or might not pay off on the court. Because of the size of the team, when one of those risks doesn't pay off, there's a big price to be paid. Something to keep an eye on.

Postseason Eligibility Questions?

We've all been fixated on 925 as the benchmark. But 930 is going to become an important benchmark starting next year. From the NCAA:

The new postseason eligibility structure will take effect in the 2012-13 academic year, with a two-year implementation window before the benchmark moves from 900 to 930. For access to postseason competition in 2012-13 and 2013-14, teams must achieve a 900 multi-year APR or a 930 average over the most recent two years to be eligible.

In 2014-15, teams that don’t achieve the 930 benchmark for their four-year APR or at least a 940 average for the most recent two years will be ineligible for postseason competition.

In 2015-16, the 930 benchmark for postseason competition participation – and additional penalties – will be implemented fully. The APR requirement for postseason participation would be waived only in extraordinary circumstances.

This is something else probably worth keeping an eye on with basketball. As for football, it's unclear whether this applies to FBS schools, since the bowl system isn't affiliated with the NCAA. Nonetheless, keep it in the back of your mind over the next couple of years.

Volleyball

Of the other sports, the only one that appears to have an issue on its hands is volleyball, which posted a single year score of 837 in 2010-11. The multi-year score is still 930, so no big problems there. I didn't follow that situation closely, but I'll assume that came about because of the regime change to Jen Greeny.

A single-year score under 900 earns a nastygram from the NCAA, which isn't a huge deal, but if the team posts another year under 900, there will be restrictions on scholarships and practice time no matter what the overall score is. (This, by the way, is why it's actually really significant the basketball team's score was right on 900 -- especially if the score somehow ends up under 900 next year.)

Everyone Else

Lastly, here's a spreadsheet showing each team's historical APR performance. This year's scores in yellow; scores no longer used for calculation in gray.

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