Friday, May 8, 2009

Auburn Baseball, The APR, and Confusion

 

The latest APR scores were released recently and well, Auburn Baseball didn’t fare so well.

It’s not too surprising. First, a little explanation:

WHAT IT IS: The Academic Progress Rate was implemented by the NCAA to encourage academic performance and help institutions examine admissions policies, retention and graduation rates, as well as improve academic support for athletes.

HOW IT'S IMPLEMENTED: The NCAA tracks the APR for every Division I program to see if the athlete:

a) remained at the school;

b) stayed academically eligible and ultimately graduated.

HOW SCORE IS DETERMINED: Points are awarded, player by player, and the NCAA has determined that teams should hit 92.5 percent of their possible total — an APR of 925. That, the association says, projects a 60 percent graduation rate.

 

  To put it in English:

The APR was designed by the NCAA to measure academic progress. It allocates points for eligibility and retention. Basically, you get a point for every player that's academically eligible and a point for every player that stays at the school. The APR is the total points a team earns, divided by the total points possible, multiplied by 1,000.

To put it bluntly, Auburn is screwed from the start. Honestly, any baseball team is screwed from the start. College Baseball is a rare sport in the college worlds. Seniors are rare, Seniors who complete their college education and graduate are even rarer. But that’s not to say that Baseball’s APR is continually slipping, it’s actually slowy improving. That could be from actual improvement or from the NCAA twisting/tweaking the requirements":

“Baseball eligibility and retention rates improved dramatically, in part because of academic reforms overall and specifically in that sport. These reforms require all transfers to leave an institution academically eligible to receive athletics aid at another institution; require baseball student-athletes to be academically eligible going into the fall term to participate in spring competition; require minimum financial aid for all baseball student-athletes; and eliminated the one-time transfer exception for baseball.”

Going O For 2

This is where baseball faces a major hurdle.  The “O for 2” guy is the most damaging to a school’s APR:

0-for-2. Under the APR calculation, an "0-for-2" student-athlete is one who is neither academically eligible nor remains with the institution. An 0-for-2 player might be one who transfers, leaves the institution for personal reasons or leaves to turn pro and would not have been academically eligible had he or she returned. Obviously, these are the types of situations the academic-reform structure is most meant to address, since they are the most damaging to a team's APR. While teams cannot always control the reasons student-athletes leave, the immediate (or contemporaneous) penalty holds them accountable for at least making sure student-athletes are academically eligible during their college tenures.

But if a guy is drafted and is academically eligible, he’s a “1 for 2” and doesn’t hurt as much. However, they still hurt.

In baseball, you want to sign the best possible players. However, if these guys are really that good, then they won’t stay on your team for long (maybe 3 years if lucky). So you have to be signing these guys knowing that they won’t graduate. Maybe they’ll come back to get a degree, but normally, no they won’t. So they will ultimately affect your APR in a negative way.

Because, no matter what, if they leave, they are at least going to be “1 for 2” guys. Meaning you still get a penalty.

Think of it this way, all college baseball players want the same thing, to play professional baseball. Well maybe not all, but most do. Especially, guys who play in a power conference like the SEC. The amount of amateur players who end up playing professionally in baseball are statistically better than say a guy who wants to go the the NFL or NBA. Also, unlike the NBA and NFL, there is no rule saying a player must spend some time out of high school before he can play in the pros.

So fielding a competitive team, a team that consistently wins, would be a team with guys who can and will turn pro. However, for each one of these guys, you are going to take a hit on your APR.

It’s easier for a football team to maintain its APR because those guys are normally around for 3 or 4 years and are that much closer to graduation. Baseball, not so much.

On Auburn’s current team (which is already depleted for Seniors) I don’t see many guys sticking around the full four years.

Most of our core guys (Morris, Fletcher, Hargett, C-Mac, Sanders) will be drafted. A good number of the sophomores will probably be gone after this year, once the draft is complete.

APR and Auburn Baseball

In the past couple of semesters (since Spring 2007), Auburn has graduated a grand total of 10 baseball players. Wow.

Just look at the names.

Spring 07:

Andy Bennett, Josh Blake, Chris Dennis, Ryan Stanley

Fall 07:

Cory Dueitt; Phillip Stringer

Spring 08:

Bryan Hebson*, Scott Schade*

Summer 08:

Jon McDonald

Fall 2008:

Brent Speigner*

*Part of “Operation Follow Through”

I’ve followed Auburn baseball for a while now and I don’t recognize half these guys.

It’s hard to tell if these guys were even on scholarship or not. Most of the time they are not. I know personally of one case, a former player out of Tampa named Andy Park. A friend of mine, Andy played his Freshman year and then never again for Auburn. Yet, there Andy was, listed among Auburn student-athletes that had graduated. So is it spin from the Media Relations department? Who knows.

I’m still not sure how the APR would factor in guys like Andy. I suppose, since he wasn’t on scholarship, he didn’t count adversely. However, I could be wrong.

So how are we doing year to year? Remember you need an APR above 925 to steer clear of penalties.

 

YEAR AU BB APR
2005 898*
2006 921^
2007 921^
2008 924
2009 928

*estimated APR upper confidence boundary of 925 or above, even though the team's actual APR is below 925. It is anticipated that some smaller squads that may be identified as underperforming in this year's reports will not be subject to penalty once the confidence boundary is applied.

^Denotes APR that does not subject the team to contemporaenous penalties due to the squad-size adjustment. The squad-size adjustment will be eliminated when the fourth year of APR data is collected, provided the team's
multiyear cohort includes 30 or more student-athletes.

So Auburn baseball is actually increasing. However, it’s just barely, and even then, it needs to be increased dramatically just to be safe.

Raising the APR

So how do you raise the APR? and still field a competitive team? It’s simple:

1) The players you have, you keep eligible, because you don’t want to turn those “1 for 2” guys into “0 for 2” guys. You especially don’t want a player who is academically ineligible being drafted.

Auburn Baseball is doing it part.

Having 5 players named to the 2006 SEC Academic Honor Roll :

Josh Blake (Criminology), Grant Cardwell (Accountancy), Andrew Hall (Exercise Science) and Clarence Nicely (Exercise Science)

5 Named to the 2007 Honor Roll:

Josh Blake (Criminology), Blake Carver (Biomedical Sciences), Chris Dennis (Health Promotion), Ben Jones (Mechanical Engineering) and Philip Stringer (Business Administration)

And again 5 guys on the 2008 Honor Roll:

Paul Burnside (Marketing), Evan Crawford (Adult Education), Jamie Drinkard (Building Science), Michael Hurst (Marketing) and Ben Jones (Mechanical Engineering)

Even better news? How about the 5 guys named to the Freshman SEC Academic Honor Roll last year:

Justin Hargett (Exercise Science), Jon Jacobs (Exrecise Science), Cory Luckie (Pre-Chemical Engineering), Chris O'Neil (Pre-Business) and Kevin Patterson (Health Promotion)

And when you have players receiving Honors like this. Then you have some positive news to build on.

2) For guys that do leave? Use “Operation Follow Through”. Especially if you can do it within 2 or 3 years of leaving school.

Bottom Line? Auburn Baseball does have a low APR. However, the deck is stacked against them from the start. However, they are doing little things to improve that score.

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