NCAA to raise APR, irk coaches and ding low-majors

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Jim Calhoun already hated the APR. Connecticut’s coach won’t be the only one after today.

The NCAA’s board of directors voted to raise its Academic Progress Rate – a calculation for each team at each school that determines whether student-athletes are making enough progress toward graduation – from a cutline of 900 to 930. (The top score is 1,000.) Any team whose four-year average falls below that line won’t be eligible for the NCAA tournament or a bowl game.

The details will be finalized in October, but the change will happen. The board wants it and so do school presidents.

“This is about the academic performance of all of our students in all of our sports. This is about the academic expectations we have for all of our student-athletes,” NCAA president Mark Emmert said in a release.

But it won’t make everyone happy. I’m certain of that.

Reigning champ UConn got hammered with APR penalties this season, which also cost Calhoun money. Under the new guideline, the Huskies wouldn’t have been in this year’s tournament. Neither would Syracuse and Florida State. Schools will have time to adjust to the new standards, but some will still fail to meet the mark occasionally.

For that, they can thank the APR.

It’s a complicated system (read more here) that has its share of issues, particularly in regard to basketball. Men’s teams lag behind in retention compared to other sports (athletes turn pro or transfer) and those schools that manage the APR sometimes fail to graduate athletes. (They only have six years to count toward the school’s rate; so much for going back to school. If you take 14 years to graduate, you don’t count.) If you have likely pros, you’ll probably get dinged.

But don’t go worrying about the hoops powers just yet. UConn and others have APR issues now, but they’ll solve them. If they don’t, they deserve to be punished. (Some are already prepping for rampant academic tampering.)

Most schools in BCS conferences have the necessary resources (read: tutors and academic support staffs) that allow them to handle the APR even when they do produce pros. Kansas, Texas, North Carolina and Kentucky didn’t have any APR issues last year.

It’s the low-major schools who’ll take the biggest hit. Check this from NY Buckets:

Six conferences would’ve had 50% or more of their members institutions be ineligible for the NCAA Tournament last season according to these standards. The list: SWAC (90%), MEAC (81.2%), Big West (55.6%), WAC (55.6%), Conference USA (50%) and Ohio Valley Conference (50%). All of those conferences fall below the Red Line which artificially designates the mid-majors from their more financial self-sufficient brethren and three of them are amongst the poorest conferences in the nation (SWAC, MEAC, OVC).

Any would-be underdogs best hope their academics are in order.

It’s not wrong to strive for academic reform and expect student-athletes to actually be student athletes. Some think this is a healthy step toward that direction. Others, not so much. I suppose I’m somewhere in the middle. I dislike the APR for its faults, but want teams to actually have players who want to go to class and be in college.

A healthier system would include an NBA that didn’t require would-be players to spend at least one year in school, but also would be a world where players committed to a school and stayed committed. So call the APR good enough for a sport that’s delightful but decidedly imperfect.

You also can follow me on Twitter @MikeMillerNBC.