With notable increases in football and men’s basketball, student-athletes continue to improve in the classroom, earning record-high marks as measured by the NCAA’s Academic Progress Rate.
In 2013-14, the overall four-year rate increased two points, lifted by substantial jumps in both high-profile sports.
The most recent four-year APR for Division I athletes is 978. Men’s basketball players earned a 961, up four points. The football rate increased five points to 956. Women’s basketball increased two points (975), and baseball is up two points (969).
NCAA President Mark Emmert congratulated Division I students on their academic success.
“More college athletes than ever are succeeding in the classroom, and I applaud their commitment to academic achievement. We are pleased and proud of their accomplishments,” Emmert said. “Our goal always has been to encourage students to achieve academically and earn their degrees. Every year, Division I students prove that both academic and athletic success are achievable.”
Similar to a report card, every Division I sports team calculates its APR each academic year. Scholarship student-athletes each semester earn one point for remaining eligible and one point for staying in school or graduating.
Additionally, more than 14,000 former college athletes have returned to school to get their degrees since the NCAA created the APR. Each of those students earns back a lost APR point for their team. Nearly half of those student-athletes (6,940) competed in baseball, men’s basketball, football and women’s basketball, the highest-profile sports in college athletics. Each of these graduates earned APR points for their team.
“Since the Academic Performance Program began, 14,349 former student-athletes have returned to school to get their degrees ,” said Committee on Academics Chair Roderick J. McDavis, president at Ohio University. “All of these individuals achieved the ultimate goal of graduation, which is the intent of the program.”
Teams scoring below certain thresholds can face consequences intended to require additional focus on academics, including practice restrictions and playing season reductions. Any team with a penalty or which had lost access to the postseason had the opportunity to appeal, possibly including a hearing before the Committee on Academics. In order to create the fairest process possible, the NCAA allows ample opportunities for those appeals.
Rates are an average of the past four years’ performance. National aggregates are based on all teams with usable data at the time of analysis.
In order to compete in the 2015-16 postseason, teams must achieve a 930 multi-year APR. NCAA member campuses and conferences in Division I decided to move to the 930 standard because it predicts roughly a 50 percent graduation rate.
To assist limited-resource institutions, the Division I Board of Directors gave these schools and their teams more flexibility to meet the APR standards. Additionally, the Limited Resource Advisory Group, a membership committee composed of representatives from limited-resource schools, recently was reconstituted. The group will recommend to the Committee on Academics and the Division I Board of Directors that limited-resource schools be granted an additional year to make the transition from a 900 to a 930 cut score for penalties.
Additionally, the committee and advisory group will consider long-term, non-time based solutions for assisting limited-resource and Historically Black Colleges and Universities in meeting the benchmarks. The group hopes to have a recommendation to the Board of Directors by January 2016.
The average 2013-14 single-year APR for teams at limited-resource schools is 963, up 16 points in the past 4 years.
“The academic performance of limited-resource schools is improving faster than that of any other part of the Division I membership. The goal of the Academic Performance Program is to encourage teams to improve academically, not punish those who underperform. We will work with HBCUs and limited-resource schools to make sure their college athletes have every opportunity to succeed academically,” Emmert said. “Members will explore a variety of options to help support the schools and students who need additional assistance.”
Any additional recommendations will supplement the Accelerating Academic Success Program, which has allocated $7.4 million to assist limited-resource schools in developing and supporting academic programs at that help student-athletes earn their degrees.
APRs for each team, lists of teams receiving public recognition and those receiving sanctions are available online through the NCAA’s searchable database.
Postseason access loss and penalties
In 2015-16, 21 teams will be ineligible for the postseason due to their low APR, compared with 42 teams last year. All teams other than limited-resource schools must achieve a 930 APR to be eligible to compete after the regular season.
In 2015-16, 28 Division I teams are subject to penalties – separate from the postseason requirement – for not meeting the minimum academic standard set by member schools. In 2014-15, 70 teams took penalties or did not have access to the postseason.
Teams are subject to penalties if their multi-year APR falls below 930. They may request a waiver of some or all penalty elements. Waivers are overseen by the Committee on Academics. The NCAA’s penalty structure has three levels, with penalties increasing in severity at each level. Schools move through the penalty structure each year, progressing to the next level if their multi-year APR remains below the benchmarks.
The specific penalties for each team are listed on the school’s report in the APR searchable database.
Level One penalties focus on practice restrictions, allowing teams to use that time to focus on academics. Teams facing this penalty lose four hours and one day of practice time per week in season, replaced with academic activities. This year, 13 teams face this level of penalty.
Level Two penalties include the Level One penalty and a reduction of four hours of practice time out of season replaced with academic activities. This level also includes the elimination of the nonchampionship season or spring football. Teams without nonchampionship seasons face a reduced number of contests. This year, 11 teams fall in this category.
Level Three penalties include all Level One and Two penalties, plus a menu of potential additional penalties. These can include scholarship reductions; additional practice and contest restrictions; coach-specific penalties (including game and recruiting restrictions); restricted access to practice for incoming students who fall below certain academic standards; restricted membership; and potential multi-year bans on postseason competition. In 2014-15, four teams face this level of penalty.