While the idea of a more contemporary and accurate measure of a team’s academic success sprouted in the early 2000s as part of a comprehensive reform effort, it wasn’t until the 2004 NCAA Convention that what is now one of the most recognizable acronyms in the NCAA was officially adopted.
The APR, or Academic Progress Rate, holds institutions accountable for the academic progress of their student-athletes through a team-based metric that accounts for the eligibility and retention of each student-athlete for each academic term.
The APR is calculated as follows:
- Each student-athlete receiving athletically related financial aid earns one point for staying in school and one point for being academically eligible.
- A team’s total points are divided by points possible and then multiplied by 1,000 to equal the team’s Academic Progress Rate.
- In addition to a team’s current-year APR, its rolling four-year APR is also used to determine accountability.
Currently, teams must earn a 930 four-year average APR or a 940 average over the most recent two years to participate in NCAA championships. In 2015-16 and beyond, teams must earn a four-year APR of 930 to compete in championships.
While the APR is intended as an incentive-based approach, it does come with a progression of penalties for teams that under-perform academically over time.
The first penalty level limits teams to 16 hours of practice per week over five days (as opposed to 20 over six days), with the lost four hours to be replaced with academic activities.
A second level adds additional practice and competition reductions, either in the traditional or non-championship season, to the first-level penalties. The third level, where teams could remain until their rate improves, includes a menu of possible penalties, including coaching suspensions, financial aid reductions and restricted NCAA membership. The Division I Committee on Academics, which oversees Division I’s academic infrastructure, has the discretion to apply appropriate penalties once teams have fallen below the benchmark for three consecutive years.
While postseason bans are commonly applied as a penalty in the NCAA enforcement process, they are not considered as a penalty for poor academic performance. Instead, the requirement that teams achieve a minimum APR is simply a benchmark for participation in championships. Just as teams must win in competition to be eligible for championships, they must also achieve in the classroom.
As part of the APR, the NCAA established a public recognition program for the top-performing teams in each sport based on their most recent multiyear APR. These awards are given each year to teams with APRs in the top 10 percent, plus ties, in each sport.
In 2015, 1124 teams (696 women’s teams and 428 men’s or mixed squads) were recognized for academic achievement.