ACC men's basketball coaches in June: 'We believe the APR should be eliminated'

The ACC's 15 men's basketball coaches told the NCAA Committee on Academics the APR 'is outdated and will be irrelevant' with transfer legislation

In September, the ACC’s men’s basketball coaches made headlines with their collective proposal for an all-inclusive NCAA tournament, which they pushed on social media and that would feature the 346 Division I teams that are eligible for the postseason. There will be 357 schools competing at the DI level in men’s basketball this season, so 11 schools will be ineligible for the postseason in 2021 for a variety of reasons, including Division II schools transitioning to Division I status, a postseason ban for Oklahoma State, and a handful of schools – Alabama A&M, Alabama State, Delaware State and Stephen F. Austin – will be ineligible due to their Academic Progress Rate (APR).

However, if the ACC’s head coaches have their way, the APR will soon become extinct.

The 2021 NCAA Tournament proposal by the ACC men’s basketball coaches wasn’t the first time this year that they collectively put their names on an emphatic statement, as the 15 head coaches sent a letter on June 1 to the NCAA Committee on Academics calling for the APR to be eliminated, according to a copy of the letter obtained by Out of Bounds. The letter is available at the end of this newsletter.

On Monday, the Division I Committee on Academics recommended to the Division I Board of Directors that the board suspends APR penalties for two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The committee had previously recommended a one-year suspension of APR penalties in September.

Now, the committee recommends that APR data is not publicly released in the spring of 2021 or 2022, and that “the historical public recognition of teams that earn APRs in the top 10% for their sport for those years not occur.” Schools would still have access to their individual APR data and the APR would still be used to “calculate eligibility for the academic unit.”

However, the ACC men’s basketball coaches took APR-related adjustments one step further – to the most extreme next step – as they called for the APR to be eliminated entirely.

APR “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,” and it’s calculated by every athlete who receives financial aid for athletics receiving one point for staying in school and one point for remaining eligible. A team’s points are divided by the maximum number of points possible, then multiplied by 1,000, and a team must have a rolling, four-year average APR of at least 930 to be eligible for postseason championships.

The primary concern of the ACC’s coaches is that the impending transfer waiver legislation will negatively affect the APR of many college athletics programs, especially in men’s basketball.

The NCAA Division I Council previously introduced a measure that would allow all DI athletes to transfer and compete immediately once during their college careers. The proposal will be voted on in January during the 2021 NCAA Convention and, if approved, it will go into effect starting in the 2021-22 school year.

While Monday’s announcement from the Committee on Academics didn’t address the proposed transfer waiver legislation, it acknowledged the impact that current COVID-19-related waivers could have on the APR.

“Earlier this year, the Division I Council provided blanket waivers and other accommodations to student-athletes affected by the pandemic,” the release stated. “While recognizing that those moves may impact the reliability and related usability of APR data by changing the academic behavior of student-athletes, the committee recommended that schools continue to submit data and request adjustments and corrections as the data are important to certain analyses of academic trends and to informing and supporting certain academic policy decisions.”

Three of the four men’s basketball programs referenced earlier that are ineligible for the postseason in 2021 due to their APR are HBCUs and the statement from the Committee on Academics on Monday announced that the committee plans to analyze how the APR affects historically Black colleges and universities, and other schools or athletes that might be more seriously affected by the pandemic.

“The committee intends to use the suspension time period, if approved, to conduct a comprehensive review of the metric and its impact on teams, especially historically Black colleges and universities, limited-resource schools, and other student-athletes and schools that may face unique or especially difficult challenges during the pandemic,” the statement read. “The review also would consider the changing landscape of transfers and the future use of standardized test scores for initial eligibility purposes.”

Here’s what the ACC coaches said

From the first paragraph of their letter, the ACC men’s basketball coaches argued that Graduation Success Rate (GSR) “more accurately reflects student-athlete transfer patterns and other factors affecting graduation” compared to the APR.

“In the original design, the APR was intended to ensure institutions, coaches and staff were focused on two key metrics, namely student-athlete eligibility and retention,” read the letter from the ACC coaches. “At this juncture, nearly twenty years later and with impending transfer waiver legislation expected to be adopted in January 2021, we believe it is incumbent on us to re-evaluate the effectiveness of APR and the two key metrics it was originally designed to address. More specifically, as a coaching group, we would like to share our views on APR and how this new legislation will adversely impact many athletic programs and in particular, men’s basketball teams.

“In regards to APR, we believe this measure is outdated for numerous reasons. We believe the APR should be eliminated because the two key metrics it originally intended to address are being effectively managed and measured in other ways. We also believe there is ample time before the transfer legislative is adopted and effective in order to thoroughly discuss this issue and determine the best course of action that matches the direction of the rules.

“The APR is unnecessary as it relates to eligibility. The NCAA rules already contain numerous initial and continuing eligibility requirements that are both quantitative and qualitative are currently in place to reinforce the importance of our student-athletes maintaining eligibility and ultimately graduating from our institutions.  Further, when APR was enacted, we were most concerned about student-athletes transferring and being academically ineligible upon transferring (the ‘O for 2’ issue).”

The “O for two” issue is when an athlete’s team wouldn’t receive either of the athlete’s two potential APR points if the athlete both transfers and is academically ineligible.

“When the new transfer waiver legislation is adopted, the only way a student-athlete will be able to be immediately eligible at the subsequent school is if they are academically eligible,” the letter stated. “Therefore, there will be tremendous motivation by the student-athlete to remain eligible so they can transfer and immediately compete. The desire to maintain eligibility at the current school is significant shift (sic) in the motivation of a transfer student-athlete who previously had to sit out a year and ‘get eligible’ during their year in residence.

“As it relates to the retention aspect of APR, first, it should be noted that the increase in the number of transfers in all sports over the last decade has grown precipitously.  As we make the transfer legislation less restrictive, we can reasonably expect the transfer population in the additional five sports (e.g., baseball, men’s basketball, women’s basketball, football and men’s ice hockey) to increase even more. Because the NCAA rules will allow student-athletes to transfer and be immediately eligible pending they are academically eligible, we should not continue to be accountable (or penalized) for the number of student-athletes who transfer as they can now do so with no limitations or ramifications for any reason. As a coaching group who have collectively spent decades building programs, and dedicated our careers to recruiting, working with and developing young people, at no time do we recruit a prospective student-athlete with the hopes or intention that they leave our program. We want them to stay and graduate from our institutions. However, with this new transfer waiver legislation coming, we realize they will be able to leave or be recruited away with no recourse and therefore, believe the retention metric in the APR is outdated.

“In contrast to the APR, the GSR has been successful and will remain a relevant tool moving forward. The GSR effectively measures graduation rates of student-athletes, something that the APR has never done and is a much more accurate assessment of athletics departments’ academic success at our colleges and universities than traditional federal graduation rates. In essence, the GSR is a valuable measurement to athletics departments and further makes the need for APR obsolete. 

”At the end of the day, we have strict academic eligibility requirement (sic) that track current eligibility standards of our student-athletes, the impending transfer rule encourages student-athletes to transfer eligible (sic), and the GSR monitors our overall academic success and hold our institutions accountable for graduating student-athletes who finish their academic careers with us. The APR is outdated and will be irrelevant once the transfer waiver rules change.

”We appreciate your time and thoughtful consideration of this important issue and are more than willing to discuss this issue further if desired.”

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Letter from the ACC men’s basketball coaches to the NCAA Committee on Academics

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Recap of last week’s newsletter

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“One model appeared to be built around a football season that would start in December, but Ohio State Athletic Director Gene Smith expressed concern that such a model could lead to an entire Big Ten team electing not to play.”

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