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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Low APR onus not on Lopez

    casey at the pen

    Think the Arizona baseball team’s recent APR problems fall squarely on the shoulders of Arizona head coach Andy Lopez? Think again.

    First, the facts.

    Arizona’s baseball program will indeed be out 1.17 scholarships either this year or the next – the maximum penalty per year in the sport (10 percent of available scholarships) – thanks to a score of 865 on its Academic Progress Rate.

    Sure, it’d be easy to blame the coach. Coaches take the blame for everything else that goes wrong in the program, right? Why not pile it on?

    Because – as professors tell their students over and over again – don’t just ask the who, the what, the when and the where of the situation and assume the conclusion, because the most important question is “”why.”” Why will Lopez’s recruiting abilities be slightly hindered in the near future?

    In the words of the NCAA, the APR “”is an academic measurement that includes primarily currently enrolled student-athletes.”” (Please note that it was the NCAA, not me, who added the emphasis on “”currently.””)

    One very common misconception about the APR is that it strictly deals with graduation rates, when, in fact, it was “”developed as a more real-time assessment of teams’ academic performance than the six-year graduation-rate calculation provides.””

    Based on a point scale, the APR rewards student-athletes for (a) meeting “”academic-eligibility standards”” and (b) “”remain(ing) with the institution.”” Individual points earned by student athletes (they can earn up to two per semester) are then added up and divided by the total possible points the team could have earned, and – voila – we’ve arrived at the team’s APR.

    A perfect APR score would technically be 1,000 points, with 925 being the so-called “”safe-haven.”” With a score of 924 or lower, the school is subject to incur “”contemporaneous”” (aka “”now””) penalties if a player who is academically ineligible isn’t retained by the program, either through a transfer or, for example, a professional draft. Note that a 925 score alone doesn’t automatically mean a program will be penalized.

    The bigger key here is when a player “”transfers, leaves the institution for personal reasons or leaves to turn pro and would not have been academically eligible had he or she returned,”” then it counts double against a team’s APR score. That athlete is called a “”0 for 2″” student athlete and is most damaging to a team’s APR.

    Contemporaneous penalties occur when a team already not making the APR cut has a “”0 for 2″” player.

    “”A contemporaneous penalty means that teams cannot re-award that grant-in-aid (scholarships) to another player. In effect, a team’s financial aid limit is reduced by the amount of countable aid awarded to the student-athlete who did not earn eligibility and was not retained.””

    Basically, the NCAA’s goal is to hold institutions “”accountable for at least making sure student-athletes are academically eligible during their college tenures.””

    There are two types of categories that the NCAA uses in breaking down academic progress: so-called “”head-count”” sports and “”equivalency”” sports. Basically, what it boils down to is that “”head-count”” sports can’t divide scholarships up, whereas “”equivalency”” sports can.

    Baseball falls under the latter category, which explains how the program could lose 1.17 scholarships, instead of full rides, when the APR penalties were handed down.

    Which brings us back to Lopez.

    “”It’s just a very challenging time when a young man’s a junior athlete and he has a chance to go make a lot of money, and he forgets about going to class,”” he said.

    “”We have a unique thing with professional baseball and (its) advisers advising some of our junior athletes,”” Lopez added. “”I’m not sure how much they advise them to go to class, and that’s a challenge.””

    The installation of the new rule “”Find Out When”” by the NCAA, which says that players must be eligible to return for the fall semester if they want to compete in their sports’ postseason, should help to improve APRs all over college baseball.

    This rule will greatly affect the team’s APR – in a positive way, of course. So you’re a business major? What if Microsoft offered you a job, saying it’s yours at the end of your junior year, and all you needed to do is work on your knowledge surrounding computers.

    Now, they tell you that it doesn’t matter what your GPA is, and that your potential new job’s salary will be in the mid-six figures with potential to greatly expand to the upper seven- to and maybe even eight-figure range? Would you go to class all the time? Or would you use up all your time to increase your computer knowledge?

    This was the dilemma facing collegiate baseball players for a number of years up until last season, only it had nothing to do with Microsoft and everything to do with baseball. Now, the new rule is essentially saying Microsoft will give you the job, only you need to maintain your grades at a certain level, and thus go to class.

    “”It’s a wonderful thing,”” said senior associate athletic director Kathleen “”Rocky”” LaRose. “”We’re delighted that (the rule) was passed because that keeps them focused on their academic purpose.””

    “”I feel a lot better about the future because of the catch net in terms of them having to be eligible in order to participate in postseason play,”” Lopez added. “”Honestly, I’m sad (about the APR score), but I’m not too concerned about it affecting recruits, and I’m not too concerned about anything other than the fact that I’m glad we have a catch net (in the rule).

    “”If (a recruit) was really concerned I would tell them just to look at our background, look at wherever I’ve been.””

    As damaging as the six underclassmen who left as juniors last season were the transfers – the Wildcats lost right-handed pitcher Sean Jarrett to Oral Roberts, infielder Bryan Kervin to Texas Christian, and third baseman Jason Seefeld to Texas Tech.

    Players transferring across the NCAA is a problem that ravages college baseball, as athletes given release aren’t forced to sit out the year that they would be in a sport such as football or men’s basketball. This problem is facilitated by the limited number of scholarships available to disperse among the team (11.7).

    This year alone, 118 players transferred from one Division I school to another, and of those, only one, Brandon Reichert, who made his way to Florida State from Mercer, was not granted a release from his former school, forcing him to sit out the 2006 season.

    It is the culture of college baseball that facilitates these low APR scores, not the individual coaches at the institutions.

    Still not convinced? Maybe this will help: “”We have all the confidence in coach Lopez, we’ve talked to him, and he is on board,”” LaRose said. “”He has a strong focus on academics. I think it’s more of a circumstance than it is the effort we put behind it.””

    – Lindsey Frazier contributed quotes.

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