Matt Jones has been the online sports editor for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette since 2010. He is also a feature writer for Hawgs Illustrated magazine and is currently pursuing a Masters degree in journalism.
Academic Progress Rate:
Lower basketball APR doesn't worry officials
Arkansas coach Mike Anderson directs his players from the bench during the second half of play against Southern Methodist Monday, Nov. 18, 2013, in Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE Arkansas basketball's single-year academic progress rate (APR) score dropped considerably in the latest reporting period, but officials aren't worried the lower score will lead to more penalties in future years.
The Razorbacks had a single-year APR score of 902 for the latest reporting period, which reflected the 2012-13 academic year. Despite the low single-year score, the program's multiyear APR score was 937 - above the NCAA benchmark of 930, but down from a multiyear score of 951 last year.
It isn't exactly clear why Arkansas' latest single-year score was so low, though the program did suffer departures that spring from BJ Young and Marshawn Powell, who were exploring professional options.
If neither player finished out their classes, Arkansas would have lost the eligibility and retention point for both during the spring semester. Because of federal privacy laws, officials couldn't say whether Powell or Young negatively affected the latest APR scores, though it's likely that was the case because no returning players were academically ineligible upon the start of the 2013-14 basketball season.
Hunter Mickelson transferred from Arkansas to Kansas following the spring 2013 semester, which could also have affected the single-year APR score. Transfers don't count against their former team's APR if their grade point average is above 2.6.
What is APR?
Each student-athlete receiving athletically related financial aid earns one retention point for staying in school and one eligibility point for being academically eligible each semester. 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. A perfect score is 1,000.
The Razorbacks could have been positively impacted by the graduation of 1980s star Darrell Walker, who finished his degree in the fall of 2012. In certain cases, programs can receive a bonus point and count a former player's graduation toward APR.
Jon Fagg, a senior athletics director for compliance, said the low single-year score isn't likely to adversely affect the program, which just graduated five scholarship players and had a cumulative grade point average of 3.02 in the fall.
"It's really hard to describe how much better we feel about it," said Fagg, who also serves as the basketball program's sport administrator. "Coach (Mike) Anderson really does a great job of setting an entire culture for his team on the court and off the court, just being responsible generally. If you think about it, we haven't had off-the-court issues. We're doing well in a big picture with APR.
"I hear Coach Anderson telling the kids when we come back in at 1 o'clock from a road trip, 'You're going to school, you've got class in the morning. You're getting up and there will be class checkers.' He expects them to do it. If they miss a class, they're getting in trouble."
Men's basketball was in APR shambles upon Anderson's arrival, stemming from several players leaving academically ineligible following the 2007-08 season. Arkansas scored a 755 single-year score that academic year, resulting in four multiyear scores below the NCAA benchmark and a scholarship reduction in Anderson's first season.
The Razorbacks had a single-year score of 977 in Anderson's first year at the school and current numbers look good for next year, according to Fagg.
"We're very confident they're not going to have a problem in the big picture," Fagg said.
Other sports to fall below the NCAA single-year benchmark in 2012-13 were men's indoor and outdoor track & field teams, and women's tennis. The indoor team, which won the NCAA championship in 2013, had an APR single-year score of 894 while the outdoor team had a score of 918.
Like basketball, both track programs remained above the NCAA benchmark with multiyear scores of 945 for the indoor team and 943 for the outdoor team. Women's tennis had a multiyear score of 960.
Fagg said because transfers are more prevalent in track & field, APR scores can fluctuate more on a year-to-year basis. Track, like baseball, is an equivalency sport and has only 12.6 scholarships to field a team, though any athlete on athletic scholarship counts equally toward the APR.