June 27, 2012
By Tom Weber
CARBONDALE, IL - The NCAA published its annual APR report last week that showed the Saluki men's basketball program has dropped to a four-year average score of 908. That's uncomfortably close to the 900 threshold upon which the NCAA can take corrective measures.
The questions I hear most are -- what does this mean, how did this happen, and what's being done to improve the score?
There are a lot of misconceptions about what the APR is. The purpose of the APR is to gauge a program's academic progress and retention rates. When a player leaves your program, regardless of the reason why, your APR takes a hit. Much of the pain is mitigated if the player's GPA is above 2.6, which is why Director of Athletics Mario Moccia denied transfer requests by Treg Setty and Dantiel Daniels unless they raised their GPA above that mark.
Here's how the APR is calculated -- each scholarship athlete has the potential to earn up to four points per school year. They get one point per semester just for staying in school. They get one point per semester for being academically eligible (which typically requires a 2.0 GPA or better).
If a player simply stays in school and maintains a 2.0 GPA, they earn four (4-for-4) points. If a player leaves the program after a season with a GPA above 2.6, they earn three points (3-for-3). If the player leaves with a GPA below 2.6, they earn three points (3-for-4). If the player leaves with a GPA below 2.0, they earn two points (2-for-4).
A one-year APR can get ugly in a hurry. For example, Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim had three players leave school in the spring semester in 2009 and declare for the NBA Draft, which dropped his team's APR to 865 that year out of a possible 1,000 points. It was the program's second-straight year below 900, and the NCAA penalized Syracuse by cutting two scholarships. "I don't think Harvard was punished when Bill Gates left early," said Boeheim, who is not a fan of the APR formula.
*Two players transfer with a GPA below 2.6 (loss of two points). *Two players transfer with a GPA above 2.6 (loss off two overall points) *One senior player leaves school in the spring semester to play pro ball with a GPA below 2.0 GPA (loss of two points). *One player drops below a 2.0 GPA for one semester (loss of one point).
Total loss of five points, plus two overall points (45-of-50) gives you an APR of 900. You can see how quickly things can go bad.
Now, let's deal specifically with Saluki men's basketball. First, let's dispel the myth that the current players are all doing poorly in school. The team GPA is a respectable 2.628. Every player is currently eligible. Two players need to do well in summer school to maintain their status, and our department's academic head is confident that will happen.
The APR is a four-year average score, so if one bad year is cause for concern, then two bad years rings alarm bells. That's where Southern is. The last four one-year APR numbers are 961, 957, 878 and 837. That averages out to 908.
The primary culprit in SIU's APR drop during the past two years is obvious -- RETENTION. There has been a turnstile on the program doors. You know the names -- Kevin Dillard, Anthony Booker, Nick Evans, Gene Teague, Troy Long, Mykel Cleveland, Jordan Myers (and more recently Treg Setty and Harry Whitt). Some of them left SIU with a 2.6 or better GPA, and that minimizes their potential APR hit. For example, Whitt left with a 4.0 GPA, and assuming he enrolls in a four-year institution next fall, he will count as a 3-for-3 on next year's APR. (Note, however, that if he had stayed, he would be a 4-for-4.)
Another myth that should be dispelled relates to the actual graduation of players. I'm aware of only four men's basketball players during the past decade who completed their eligibility at SIU without graduating. Two of them will likely get their degrees this summer.
The NCAA has a method of measuring graduation rates called the Graduation Success Rate (GSR), which shows the proportion of student-athletes on any given team who earn a college degree. The last four GSR numbers for Saluki men's basketball are 82, 100, 91 and 86 (on a scale of 100). Men's basketball players who stay at the University typically graduate.
Back to the APR -- what does all this mean for the future of Saluki basketball? SIU has already lost two overall points toward next year's APR with the loss of Setty and Whitt. Even so, the program is on track for a very strong APR number, because you can get bonus points when players return and graduate, and two former players are working diligently to make that happen this summer.
The doctor's orders are clear -- the current roster of players needs to stay at Southern and stay eligible. It's not complicated, and if it happens, SIU will turn in a very solid number when next year's report comes out.
Now you know the facts. There's been some misinformation reported recently on the Saluki men's basketball APR and a little bit of sensationalism, in my opinion. While no one is happy with the 908 score, and there is a lot of work to be done, words like "horrific" overstate the situation. SIU does not have the lowest APR in the Valley. (Missouri State posted a 902, and the Bears lost a scholarship in 2008-09, something that hasn't happened to SIU.)
After Syracuse recorded two sub-900 APR scores, it rebounded with back-to-back 1,000 scores. Southern will try to duplicate that feat.