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The A-P-R Is A Bunch Of C-R-A-P

The NCAA handed out its annual report card for program. And while Syracuse seems to have made the grade across the board, the entire process of ratings programs based on grades is a massive waste of time.

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Rob Carr

Look at that image of Jim Boeheim. Just look at it!

We've all seen it before, a million times. Boeheim, the Syracuse-lifer by choice, screaming at someone about something, anything -- maybe because he's a Syracuse-life by choice. He could be yelling at a player making a boneheaded mistake, a Jim Burr official making a boneheaded call, a boneheaded Gregg Doyle asking Boeheim about retirement, a microphone...being a microphone:

It doesn't take much to set off the fiery 68 year old. But for all of his rants, and there are obviously many (just Google: Jim Boeheim Rants to find out for yourself!), none may be more justified than his take on the NCAA and its Academic Progress Rate -- just ask Arnie Duncan about that one.

First, let me point out that the Syracuse men's basketball program is actually in good standing when it comes to the APR. For whatever that means.

You know what, maybe we should actually start with the APR itself - as in, what is it? (I'm sure you know, and what you're about to read isn't a new debate, but just bear with me.)

Let's let the venerable NCAA president Mark Emmert (yup, no skeletons in that closet!) and his cronies try to explain:

Beginning with 2012-13 championships, teams must earn a minimum 900 four-year APR or a 930 average over the most recent two years to be eligible to participate. For 2014-15 championships, teams must earn a 930 four-year average APR or a 940 average over the most recent two years to participate in championships. In 2015-16 and beyond, teams must earn a four-year APR of 930 to compete in championships.

So, um, HUH?

OK, let me take this one and try to sum it up: programs receive and lose points based on their players attending class -- the points are calculated over time.Got it? Good.

Sure, it's more complicated than that, but that's the gist. And really there's something inherently perfect that the NCAA, the very group charged with getting programs to fall in line, can't make things clear when it needs clarity the most. I mean, isn't the most important duty of the NCAA to keep the student in student-athlete? It shouldn't be this hard.

As TNIAM contributor John points out, the NCAA's APR is a jumbled mess that doesn't really do what its supposed to do:

  • Teams are penalized for transfers, as those students are counted as 'incomplete' toward the total score
  • Teams are penalized for having players declare for their sport's respective professional draft and then no longer attending class (how are you supposed to force them to do so?)
  • It's an arbitrary number system... that's all.

If a player doesn't finish out the academic school year in good standing, practically no matter what the excuse is, the program gets hurt. Yup.

Remember 2010? Syracuse hoops "scored" a 912 on its APRs. That turned out to be 13 points below the arbitrary cutoff point, meaning Boeheim's team was forced to give up to scholarships. Why did Syracuse's grade dip? Because players Eric Devendorf, Jonny Flynn, and Paul Harris all left school early -- all three throwing their collective fate to the NBA draft, all three literally leaving school early, before the end of the spring semester.

And by not finishing out their final semesters, Boeheim's team was penalized, not the players. Sure, you can't really punish the players for leaving school, but isn't just as crazy to spank the coach?

How do you stop a student from trying to live life in the first place? Oh, I mean "student-athlete." Although I feel like this is the point where I remind you the NCAA is in the early stages of a near $11 billion deal with CBS and Turner. Collegiate athletics is a major business. One where its most valuable of employees can't make a cent of any profit (they obviously get a free ride and some under-the-table benefits, though).

Somehow along the way we keep this antiquated idea that coach is professor or academic adviser or even parent. Like Boeheim, or any other coach, is truly judged by graduation rates. Yeah, Boeheim's name is on the court at the Carrier Dome because his players show up for class. Mike Krzyzewski is considered the new John Wooden because of wins and national championships, nothing to do with actual school related superlatives. And never forget, the boss of the NCAA makes close to $1.6 million a year.

This can't be real life, right?

And guess which programs have been hit the hardest by these APR penalties? The programs with the smallest budgets. The programs that can't afford this:

That's right, the NCAA, with its mangled APR, has caught the likes of Chicago State, Grambling, and Mississippi Valley failing to get kids to graduate!


So why do we accept this APR as law? Probably because it puts the focus on academics. For most people - save for Boeheim - it sounds dirty to point out its flaws - education must come first, right? (Just ignore the TV deals, the sneaker deals, the cola deals.) And the fact that a program like Syracuse went from losing scholarships to being on the good side of the NCAA law could be a point used to credit the APR.

But I keep going back to the fact that a coach is a coach. Although they can leave a deeper impression, it's not up to a coach to make his players students. A coaching staff goes after the players that will help its team win, the school allows for said players to matriculate. If a player fails to make the grade, there is punishment to be dealt. Essentially, a coach should go after the players who will actually be able to stay in good standing, and the school should be monitoring to make sure everything is on the up-and-up.

The programs that don't follow those rules? They get hit with penalties. Seems simple enough, but what's that matter? The NCAA cares not for simplicity or even common sense.

I'm sure there are some great compromises out there, ways to fix up or overhaul this APR thing - I just don't want to hear them. It's a foolish system that really isn't accomplishing what it's supposed to. Yet, I could argue until Boeheim is blue in the face, and nothing will likely change. Education supposedly comes first, even when it comes at the expense of logic.