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Reforming APR

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As good as Rutgers football always doing so well in the APR is, it has to be acknowledged that the system has a lot of flaws. Kudos to USA Today on this story. They always seem to do pretty good work when it comes to broad analyses of NCAA trends.

When the NCAA introduced the APR system in 2004, its officials estimated that a rate of 925 for a team projected a Graduation Success Rate (GSR) of about 60%. The GSR is the NCAA's alternative to the federal graduation rate, and unlike the federal rate, it counts transfer students and does not punish teams whose athletes leave college before graduation if they leave in good academic standing.

According to a continuing NCAA review of the APR system, the association now estimates that an APR of 925 predicts about a 50% Graduation Success Rate.

The change in the predictive quality of the APR appears to be tied primarily to two scoring changes that the NCAA's member institutions adopted. In 2005, the APR system was altered so that teams would no longer be punished for players who leave college early to play professionally, as long as those leaving did so in good academic standing. Then, in 2008, the system was changed again so that teams would no longer be punished for players who transfer to compete for other institutions, as long as those transferring away earned at least a 2.6 grade point average.

It has already been weakened twice, although those changes made intuitive sense. The solution then ought to be drastically increasing the cut-off score from its current 925. If it merely went up 25 points to 950, hardly an unreasonable requirement, then a whole host of football programs would suddenly be in major trouble. That's just to throw an arbitrary number out there, but it should at least increase to whatever APR score now correlates with a 60% GSR in order to maintain the original spirit behind the metric.

The current system as is measures an athletic department's ability to keep players eligible. That's important, and certainly at the very top demonstrates a commitment to good academic support, but there are definitely flaws in the system I'd like to see a weighted GPA component added, because it's not enough for student-athletes to merely attend class.

As of last year, Rutgers had a reported Graduation Success Rate of 82% through the 2002 season, and their 992 multi-year APR score was the highest of any FBS program. The major problem with GSR of course is that players are given six years to get through school, so it takes forever to actually compile graduation data. While APR scores are also four-year rolling averages, they take far less time to compile (the latest APR scores measure from '05-'06 through '08-'09).