First, a little background. According to wikipedia:
"The Academic Progress Rate (also known as APR) is a metric established by the NCAA to measure the success or failure of collegiate athletic teams in moving student-athletes towards graduation."
You can learn more about the Academic Progress Rate here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Academic_Progress_Rate.
The APR is calculated by allocating points for eligibility and retention -- the two factors that research identifies as the best indicators of graduation. Each player on a given roster earns a maximum of two points per term, one for being academically eligible and one for staying with the institution. A team's APR is the total points of a team's roster at a given time divided by the total points possible. Since this results in a decimal number, the CAP decided to multiply it by 1,000 for ease of reference. Thus, a raw APR score of .925 translates into the 925 that will become the standard terminology.
- The above quotation is also from the wikipedia article, which links to here: http://www.ncaa.org/wps/ncaa?ContentID=1422. When I try to follow that link, I get a 404. In fact, I was singularly unsuccessful at following any of the links to NCAA websites from that wikipedia article.
You can find information about the University of Alabama's Academic Progress Rates in various sports here: http://web1.ncaa.org/app_data/apr2009/Lh6OjRWGcnU8_2009_apr.pdf. According to a USA Today article:
Reigning national champions in football and men's and women's basketball fared well in multiyear APR totals. Duke's men's basketball team was at 980, the Connecticut women's hoops team scored 990 and the Alabama football team came in at 957.
I have not yet found the actual ranking of Alabama's APR, but the USA Today article indicates that among teams ranked in the preseason top 25, Alabama's APR ranked 11th, behind both Florida (5th) and LSU (9th). I will put the multiyear APRs for the entire SEC (for football) here. As a reference, the average for all Division I (not necessarily FBS) football teams is 944, for public institutions is 937, for private institutions is 963, for FBS schools is 947, and for FCS schools is 939.
Alabama - 957 (972 from 2008-2009)
Arkansas - 930 (956 from 2008-2009)
Auburn - 935 (915 from 2008-2009)
LSU - 965 (961 from 2008-2009)
Mississppi State - 939 (954 from 2008-2009)
Ole Miss - 921 (957 from 2008-2009)
Florida - 971 (982 from 2008-2009)
Georgia - 973 (965 from 2008-2009)
Kentucky - 951 (955 from 2008-2009)
South Carolina - 938 (934 from 2008-2009)
Tennessee - 944 (928 from 2008-2009)
Vanderbilt - 975 (982 from 2008-2009)
If you want to know how well anyone else did, you can look them up here: http://www.ncaa.org/wps/portal/ncaahome?WCM_GLOBAL_CONTEXT=/ncaa/NCAA/Academics+and+Athletes/Education+and+Research/Academic+Reform/APR/2010/2y79t8D4_2008-09_School_APR_Data.html
The University of Colorado (or Colorado University - see here: http://www.rollbamaroll.com/2010/12/13/1874909/big-xii-dyslexia-a-mockumentary) was the only BCS team that lost football scholarships (five) due to their APR.
Now, to the meat of the FanPost. The New York Times recently published an Article about the Auburnite's precipitous decline, APR-wise, from 4th to 85th of the 120 FBS schools. You can find this article here: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/06/sports/ncaafootball/06auburn.html?_r=2&pagewanted=1&partner=rss&emc=rss
That's right, the Land of the Auburnite was previously ranked 4th in the nation in terms of Academic Progress Rate, ahead of both Duke and Vanderbilt. By now I'm sure everyone is aware of the academic scandal that shook the Land of the Auburnite in 2006. If you'd like to read more about it, you can do so here: http://www.nytimes.com/2006/07/14/sports/ncaafootball/14auburn.html. Basically, athletes (and other students) were taking unreal numbers of independent-study style directed reading courses, and receiving grades for doing basically no work. To put it in perspective:
18 players on Auburn’s undefeated 2004 team had taken 97 directed-reading course hours — independent study-style classes — from Thomas Petee, the sociology department’s highest-ranking member. Petee taught 252 independent studies in one academic year, 2004-5, astounding Auburn faculty members, who said that overseeing 10 independent studies would be considered ambitious.
How this particular situation came to light was that Auburn sociology professor Jim Gundlach
saw on television that an academic football player of the week was an Auburn sociology major, yet Gundlach was surprised that he had never had him in class. He asked two other sociology professors, who also did not recall having him as their student. Gundlach dug through records and soon found that Auburn football players were graduating as sociology majors without taking sociology courses in the classroom.
The recent article points out that
Among all the bowl teams this season, Auburn has the highest disparity in the graduation rates between white players (100 percent) and black players (49 percent), according to a study at the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport at the University of Central Florida.
- The three quotations immediately above are all taken from the 2011 New York Times Article.
By way of disclaimer, I am somewhat ambivalent as to the usefulness of this particular metric.
(1) It appears to punish the hell out of teams that have players go pro early, or who leave for any reason, including transfer. [As a disclaimer to my disclaimer, I do understand that the statistic measures "the success or failure of collegiate athletic teams in moving student-athletes towards graduation" - emphasis added. I'm questioning usefulness, not accuracy or methodology re: the stated objective.] Syracuse's basketball team was actually docked two scholarships because their APR was so bad, apparently due, at least in part, to the fact that three of their players left early to go pro. From the USA Today article:
Orange coach Jim Boeheim, in a statement, said that in anticipation of the restrictions, his program already took the scholarship penalty during the 2009-10 school year. Boeheim said he anticipates the team will be back above the APR standard when the next report is compiled.
"We have always been above the APR standard since it was implemented. We had three students leave school early to pursue professional basketball careers last spring, and that is difficult to overcome," said Boeheim.
Harrison praised Boeheim but said he didn't agree with him in this case.
"I served with Jim Boeheim on the basketball academic enhancement group and find him to be a thoughtful, considerate, dedicated coach," Harrison [Walter Harrison, chair of the NCAA committee on academic performance] said. "I've learned a lot from Jim Boeheim, and he's also a passionate advocate for the things he believes in. I understand his frustrations, but in the end, I'm not persuaded by his arguments."
My personal opinion is that one attends college in order to prepare oneself for one's chosen profession. If a college athlete has decided that they want to play a sport professionally, and is in a position in which they can actually do so, then it would seem that they had successfully prepared themselves for their chosen profession. I call that collegiate success. I have expressed this opinion before, but if a student can major in dance, sculpture, french horn, or drama, then why can't students major in football? The vast majority of students who enrolled in football would not end up in the NFL, or playing football professionally at any level, but the vast majority of students who study drama don't make it in Hollywood, either.
(2) There really appeared to be some pretty wild fluctuation elsewhere, as well. This is touched on in the article. Ole Miss apparently went from 18th to 113th, FSU went from 17th to 105th, and Michigan went from 27th to 84th. I suppose this is somewhat natural, as students come and go, and the atricle references some recent academic scandals at FSU and Michigan, as well.
Update - Mirror, mirror, on the wall:
After the 2010 National Championship Game (for the 2009 season), Dr. Boyce Watkins wrote the following in an article regarding the financial exploitation of NCAA student-athletes, African-Americans in particular:
I get disgusted when I see two southern teams in the NCAA championship, mainly because the literacy and graduation rates for these players tend to be among the worst in the nation. In 2006, both the Alabama and Texas football programs were ranked #204 and #216 in graduation rates relative to other universities – so the players are not even getting the educations they were promised, since their football schedules are so rigorous. I once recall an NFL recruiter telling me that one of the graduating players could not even spell the word "Tennessee" on his job application. The NCAA remains the ultimate plantation, with a group of riled up black men being led by wealthy white male plantation owners: coaches, corporate executives, athletic directors and commentators. Sure all the players aren’t black, but nearly all of the people making money from the players are white. Yes, this is a remnant of slavery, when the plantation owners used to hold big fights and let the biggest slaves on each team get together to fight each other for plantation pride. Alabama was the winning plantation last night, and the players don’t even know that they were the ones being played.
(If I remember correctly, I would bet that the athlete referenced who could not spell "Tennessee" was Travis Henry.)
I recommend reading this entire article; I believe it raises many valid points that require addressing. We've all discussed the morality of paying players, and the value of a college education, before.
So let's check the validity of the criticisms of our particular school.
USA Today indicates that, in terms of 4-year graduation rates,
National champions, by and large, looked good. The last two in football, Alabama and Florida, hit the major-college average of 67% over four years
while this year
Seven of the top 10 — including No. 1 Auburn, No. 2 Oregon and No. 3 Boise State — and 16 of the top 25 in the current Bowl Championship Series standings fell beneath the sport's four-year average. Oklahoma and Arizona graduated fewer than half of their players.
- Both quotes above from http://www.usatoday.com/sports/college/2010-10-27-ncaa-graduation-rates-study_N.htm
But this is nonresponsive to the issue at hand. That article does touch on the fact that African-American athletes' graduation rates are improving, but does not specifically reference the University of Alabama.
You can find some good statistics here, but they were published in 2006:
If I'm reading these statistics correctly, at the time of this study:
- Black male undergraduates made up 4.6% of Alabama's student body, while black males aged 18-24 comprised 14.8% of the population (page 13/25).
- The 6-year graduation rate for black males was 45.7%, for white males was 55.2%, and for black females was 68.0% (page 16/25). [NOTE: I did not see statistics for white females - not sure why.]
- 10.7% of black males enrolled participated in athletics, comprising 66.3% of the football team and 83.3% of the basketball team (page 18/25).
- According to this study, "based on four incoming cohorts of students – 1995, 1996, 1997, and 1998," the 6-year graduation rate of black male student-athletes was 35%, while for white male student-athletes it was 48% (page 19/25).
However, according to an October 27, 2010 article found here: http://www.rolltide.com/genrel/102710aaa.html,
The University of Alabama has produced a Graduation Success Rate (GSR) score of 81, exceeding acceptable standards for completion of undergraduate studies nationally for the period covering student-athletes who attended the University during 2000-03, according to figures released by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).
The GSR measures graduation rates at Division I institutions and includes transferring into the institutions. The GSR also allows institutions to subtract student-athletes who leave their institutions prior to graduation as long as they would have been academically eligible to compete had they remained.
The football and baseball teams ranked third in the SEC. Football placed only one point behind second place Georgia, with a score of 68...
The University of Alabama ranks first in the SEC and fourth nationally among Division 1A institutions in ESPN the Magazine's latest rankings of Academic All-America selections since 2000:
Most Academic All-America Selections since 2000 (Division 1A)
University of Notre Dame 90
University of Nebraska 90
Penn State University 73
University of Alabama 53
University of Tennessee 52
Some more numbers about graduation rates, both federal graduation rate, as well as the graduation success rate (GSR), can be found here: http://stanford.scout.com/2/952555.html. It lists Alabama's football graduation rate at 67%.
And now for my finale: http://www.tidesport.org/Grad%20Rates/2010-11_APR-GSR_BowlStudy.pdf. For the record, www.tidesport.org is NOT affiliated with the University of Alabama. TIDE here stands for The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports, and it is the UCF organization referenced by the New York Times.
According to their statistics, Alabama has an overall football student-athlete graduation rate of 67%, an African-American football student-athlete graduation rate of 60%, and a white football student-athlete graduation rate of 89%, with an overall student-athlete graduation rate of 81%. You can find this information on page 4/5 of the referenced document.
There is lots of good information in there, so I strongly recommend reading that entire article. You might notice a few surprises.
You can find Auburn on page 4/5, as well. Interestingly, Auburn's 49% graduation rate among African-American football players, while bad, is still better than Oregon's, at 41%.
Seventeen teams or 24 percent of the bowl-bound schools graduated less than half of their African-American football student-athletes, while only one school graduated less than half of its white football student-athletes.
Among the disturbing news in the study is:
Among the bowl-bound teams, the following results were found:
63 schools (90 percent) had graduation success rates of 66 percent or higher for white football student-athletes, which was more than 2.7 times the number of schools with equivalent graduation success rates for African-American football student-athletes (23 schools or 33 percent).
17 schools (24 percent) graduated less than 50 percent of their African-American football student-athletes, while only one school graduated less than 50 percent of its white football student-athletes (Oklahoma).
Five schools (7 percent) graduated less than 40 percent of their African-American football student-athletes, while no school graduated less than 40 percent of its white football student-athletes.
In addition, the percentage of the gap among some schools is alarming:
15 schools (21 percent) had graduation success rates for African-American football student-athletes that were at least 30 percentage points lower than their rates for white football student-athletes.
35 schools (50 percent) had graduation success rates for African-American football student-athletes that were at least 20 percentage points lower than their rates for white football student-athletes.
Five schools had graduation success rates for African-American football student-athletes that exceeded their rates for white football student-athletes: Northwestern (one percentage point higher), Virginia Tech (three percentage points higher), Southern Mississippi (three percentage points higher), Notre Dame (four percentage points higher) and Troy (10 percentage points higher). That is up from four schools in the 2009-10 study.
Only Texas Tech had overall GSR rates for football players that were better than the overall student-athletes.
In closing, if Dr. Watkins was disgusted last year, he must be furious this year.