Several CMU athletic programs rank low in MAC standings for academic progress rate
Editor’s note: This is the second story in a series about student-athletes’ academics at Central Michigan University. This comparison takes a look at the most recent academic progress rate on a four-year average, concluding with the 2010-11 academic year.
All Central Michigan University’s athletics programs meet NCAA standards for academic progress rate, though many rank low in the Mid-American Conference.
CMU gymnastics and women’s basketball rank last in the MAC, while volleyball, soccer and wrestling are second to last in the league in their respective sports.
“APR is a predictor of graduation success,” Director of Athletics Dave Heeke said. “This is a real-time, semester-by-semester measurement.”
Men’s outdoor track and field is CMU’s highest-ranking program amongst its peers, ranking second in the MAC, behind Buffalo.
The NCAA uses APR, in addition to graduation rates, to measure the eligibility and retention of Division I student-athletes on a term-by-term basis.
Each scholarship student-athlete earns a point for remaining at the institution and a point for academic eligibility. The team’s total points are divided by points possible and multiplied by 1,000. A perfect APR score is 1,000.
In 2004, the NCAA added APR as a method to gauge the academic progress of its student-athlete population.
“When you look back to the APR and (graduation success rate), those provide us a much clearer snapshot of how student-athletes are succeeding,” Heeke said. “(APR is) a shift from graduation rates and more ‘How are we doing in more real-time moving student-athletes through and ultimately graduating.’”
Teams that slip below the 925 NCAA threshold are subject to violations including loss of scholarship, public acknowledgement, practice reduction and postseason bans. In addition, a Division I team could lose up to 10 percent of its scholarships per year if the benchmark is not met.
An academic improvement plan might also be required for a team that falls below the 925 mark to ensure an attempt to improve the team’s academic standing.
CMU experienced its only penalty during the 2006-07 academic year. The football program was penalized two scholarships after recording a 907 APR in 2004-05, a 921 in 2005-06 and a 922 in 2006-07.
“I’ve seen college football when there were no requirements, and I think the NCAA has it right, right now, with the system we use,” head football coach Dan Enos said. “I think we are pushing these guys to graduate and earn their degrees.”
The Chippewas bounced back in 2007-08 with a 930 score and haven’t slipped below the 925 mark since.
Teams face additional sanctions for each consecutive year that its APR is below 900. The first year results in a public warning letter for poor performance, followed by scholarship and practice time restrictions for year two.
A third consecutive year would result in a postseason ban, and a fourth year would remove the school’s athletics program from Division I competition.
The NCAA has made exceptions for students who leave to pursue a professional career with good academic standing, as well as student-athletes who transfer schools while meeting academic requirements.
Baseball head coach Steve Jaksa said the sport’s APR has improved since the exception was put into place.
“Baseball was struggling four years ago with that, but we’ve done some things in baseball where we were losing points if guys left early,” Jaksa said. “As long as he left eligible, we should get that point. Baseball has done nicely with APR the last few years for those reasons.”
In order to continue the improvement of academics among Division I athletes, the NCAA decided in August 2011 to increase its minimum four-year APR to 930 to be eligible to compete in championships.
Although the new policy will take effect this year, universities will be given a three-year period to adjust, setting the new policy to take full effect during the 2015-16 academic year.
Men’s basketball head coach Keno Davis said the rule change is fair and will change the way programs recruit.
“I think (the change) raises awareness when it comes to recruiting the right type (of athletes),” Davis said. “You’re going to have players who want to transfer based on playing time and that’s out of your hands, but you can also make sure you have a plan in place.”
Rival Western Michigan ranks first in APR for men’s basketball with a score of 986 and gymnastics with a 995. Eastern Michigan is first in APR in wrestling, with a 970 and volleyball with a 995.
Miami (Ohio)’s APR leads the MAC in four sports, including a 987 in football, while Ball State and Northern Illinois share the top ranking in at least four sports.
The next story in this series will feature a breakdown of each sport and explore reasons why sports vary in GPAs and graduation rates.
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