A University of Central Florida study published on March 14 revealed that UTSA produced the second lowest Academic Progress Rate (APR) 885 of the 68 teams participating in the 2011 NCAA men’s basketball tournament.
This season UTSA made NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship for the first time since 2004, but fell below the NCAA’s recommended 925 APR.
The NCAA does not require that participating teams meet the 925 benchmark to be eligible for the tournament, but U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics are pushing for a reform that does.
“If we weren’t allowed to compete in the NCAA tournament this year, a lot of people would be impacted by that decision that weren’t here when that low APR was earned,” Associate Athletic Director of Academic Services Colin Howlett said.
“I think the positive is that the NCAA is trying to legislate good behavior among its institutions, its coaches, and its students, and that is a very difficult thing to do.”
A university’s APR is calculated based on the scores for the last four years.
The NCAA considers an APR a “real-time assessment of teams’ academic performance.” They award two points each term to student athletes who meet academic eligibility standards and who remain within the institution.
A team’s APR is the total points earned by the team at a given time divided by the total points possible.
“Before our current staff got here there were a couple of years where the APR was very low, but once this year’s APR is put on, one of the bad years will fall off,” Assistant Basketball Coach Dan O’Dowd said.
UTSA will have an APR of 927 this spring when the current season’s APR is factored in, which slightly surpasses the recommended figure.
Howlett says if the NCAA were to require the 925 APR to compete, they would likely implement it on a certain “time lag” so schools would have time to adjust.
The athletic department and coaching staff have measures in place to ensure that athletes are on point academically.
Each coach is assigned three to four players to meet with periodically about upcoming tests, assignments and projects. Athletes also report to academic counselors, have mandatory study hall and are required to attend class.
“We really try to remind them that the reason they are here is to get an education,” O’Dowd said.
“I just don’t think it’s fair to the kids that are here now because they have done what is expected of them on the court and in the classroom.”
Howlett is confident that UTSA is prepared and would not have a problem if the NCAA decides to enforce the no tournament play rule.
“If they decide that they think this is a fair penalty and they clearly describe what’s required of everyone, then that’s on the school and I would understand where the NCAA had to make that move,” Howlett said.