The NCAA released the latest tranche of data pertaining to the graduation rates of the country’s student-athletes, known as Academic Progress Rate, or APR. On this Day o’ the Draft, a day in which we all prostrate ourselves before the altar of mercantilism and money, I felt it somehow appropriate to look at how the Irish did this year, insofar as academics are concerned. I think you might be surprised.
“This year” is, of course, a complicated term, when speaking of a program’s APR. Earlier this month (April) of this year (2016), the NCAA released APR scores for the 2014-2015 (this year) academic year. So, this year’s APR is actually based on last year’s team, but since I am not writing to an SEC-educated audience, I feel that you’ve grasped the concept and I can move on.
To calculate a team’s APR, each scholarship athlete gets a point for being enrolled and one point for being in good standing. The team’s total points are added and then divided by the possible points and then (stay with me, you O’Shag rats) multiplied by one thousand. Then a dividend is issued and you subtract the basis from pi. Or maybe that’s how champagne is made.
APR is not solely a metric for metric’s sake. The NCAA pegs a team’s eligibility to compete in championships to its four-year (Multi-Year) APR and to be eligible in 2015-16 and beyond, a team must have an APR of 930 or better. Penalties, increasing in severity over time, accompany ineligibility.
While Notre Dame football has not risked ineligibility, one presumes that the Irish are top o’ the charts. That’s not true, as the below table shows:[table “” not found /]
Notre Dame football’s multi-year APR is 975. It’s 2014-15 APR is 971. That means 97%, give or take, of its scholarship athletes are enrolled and in good standing. Nine women’s teams (basketball, cross-country, fencing, lacrosse, softball, swimming and diving, tennis, track and field, volleyball) and seven men’s teams (cross-country, fencing, golf, lacrosse, soccer, tennis, track and field) achieved perfect scores. The average FBS score is 964.
By the way, that’s SIXTEEN teams with perfect APR scores.
In case you are curious, and you are, Alabama’s APRs over the last four years are 979 (973 for 2014-5), 978 (1,000 for 2013-14), 975 (958 for 2012-13), 978 (968 for 2011-12).
So what does APR mean, ultimately? That’s a great question, and I believe you can guess why championship eligibility is pegged to it and not, say, the NCAA’s other academic tracker, Graduation Success Rate (GSR), or the Department of Education’s Federal Graduation Rate (FGR). GSR takes the math behind APR and bastes it in string theory and non-Euclidean geometry for a few hours, to account for a player who transfers in with a degree or who leaves and ultimately graduates. FGR is still the only metric that tells you what percentage of student-athletes are graduating from a particular school in six years.
Notre Dame football’s most recent GSR, based on the 2008 cohort year, is 93, with an FGR of 82. Alabama’s most recent GSR is 86 and the FGR is 64. Alabama’s GSR and FGR for 2013-14, when they had that gaudy 1,000 APR, were 80 and 60.
That’s enough numbers for now. Hopefully tonight, though, we’ll see some of our student-athletes in another top twenty.