Tuesday’s annual release by the NCAA of its Academic Progress Rate scores elicited hardly a ripple in these parts, and around most of the country. With fewer exceptions, student-athletes are staying eligible and graduating at a better rate than previously — due, in no small part, to their schools putting an emphasis on those endeavors. We’re now 10 years into the APR and GSR (Graduation Success Rate), and it took awhile for both sides to make adjustments, but it’s clear those are being made. I don’t want to say anybody is “gaming” the system, but my sense is that athletes, and especially, schools, are figuring out what works and what doesn’t in this retention-and-eligibility pursuit.
It’s not dissimilar to what happened almost 30 years ago, when the NCAA implemented the controversial Proposition 48, the first legislation to require passable performance in core courses. There was a definite break-in period before some athletes became accustomed to difficult coursework, and the number of Prop 48 casualties dropped after the initial shock of freshman ineligibility in 1986 (I’m convinced that in many cases, high schools were either slow to get the word or ineffective in getting it across).
It was just five years ago that Washington State got docked eight scholarships on its total of 85 in football for the academic and attrition problems of the Bill Doba regime. That’s a pretty unthinkable penalty these days, and nobody in Pac-12 football appears in any grave danger of being sanctioned from the post-season.
Observations from the Pac-12:
— Cal turned in the league’s lowest multi-year football number (935), which reflects the Graduation Success Rate it had last year, a mere 48 percent. While it’s questionable a good showing recently would have saved Jeff Tedford from his firing last fall, the bottom-of-the-league performance surely couldn’t have helped. The impression here is that nobody was minding the store very faithfully in Tedford’s last years, from the APR problems to his statement that Cal was behind in the social-media world to the lack of proactive creativity in keeping ace recruiter Tosh Lupoi. The Bears addressed their APR status in a statement Tuesday, noting a plan was in place to improve the football numbers under Sonny Dykes, and one plank of that plan stopped me: Focusing on recruiting prospects to fit in better academically at Cal. There are a whole lot of implications to that statement.
— Strike up “Tribute to Troy” for the USC women’s cross country team. Its 913 score was lowest of any program in the Pac-12.
— Oregon men’s basketball had the next-lowest mark of any program (918), a remarkably slim number given that, as the Eugene Register-Guard points out, the Ducks have lately had consecutive single-year scores of 950 and 952. That team visit a couple of years ago to Dean Wormer’s office must have worked wonders.
— Nobody ever scores very low at Stanford, but the fencing team recorded a 942, lowest in the varied Cardinal athletic program. There goes that multi-year extension for the fencing coach.
— All-sport averages for the Division 1 in-state programs: Gonzaga 993, Washington 984, Seattle U. 979, Eastern Washington 976, Washington State 965. Gonzaga’s overall performance, on a 1,000-point scale, is pretty exemplary.
— Washington State’s one-year football score of 960 was its highest in seven years, and it helped raise the four-year number to 942. That could come in handy, because there was a considerable amount of attrition in the first year of the Mike Leach regime that hasn’t shown up yet, so the yearly and four-year figures are likely to drop the next time around. Then-compliance director Steve Robertello told me last fall that the Cougars were in “as good shape as they’ve been in awhile” with the APR.