Thursday, June 21, 2012

Classroom Clout -- Hoosiers Grade Out Strong in APR Scores

Let’s be honest. Do you REALLY care that Indiana had seven teams with perfect Academic Progress Report (APR) scores of 1,0000, or would you rather contemplate next season’s basketball possibilities?

You should care, you know. A lot. You don’t want the Hoosiers to ever experience what Connecticut men’s basketball is facing with a one-season NCAA tourney ban because of its low APR scores.

Or, closer to home, a return of the academic carnage from the Mike Davis-Kelvin Sampson reign of error.

It doesn’t figure to ever be a problem under basketball coach Tom Crean. Not only does he have the Hoosiers positioned for a NCAA title run, but he also has helped them post two straight 1,000 APR scores.

You’d better believe that matters.

Yes, you can thrive on the court and in the classroom, something Connecticut is struggling to achieve. IU’s academic performance is especially impressive when you consider the mess Crean inherited when he got the job.

The men’s basketball team’s APR score this year is a 952, which is actually the lowest of any of IU’s sports. The reason is simple -- the Hoosiers had a four-year total of 866 in Sampson’s last season (capped by a miserable one-year number of 811 in 2007-2008), then went 975, 1,000 and 1,000 under Crean.

It’s amazing what a quality coach and a quality person can do.

The NCAA had publicly reprimanded IU for posting four-year scores of less than 900 in three of first four years it kept track of APR. That 811 score from 2008 -– which cost Crean two scholarships in his first season -- is still affecting the basketball APR numbers.

Starting next season, it won’t. The last of the Sampson consequences will be gone.

A big part of the academic improvement was the hiring of academic adviser Marni Mooney. She deals only with the men’s basketball program and keeps up with every assignment and test of every player.

If somebody does well, she knows it. If somebody messes up or misses a class, she knows that, too. She quickly lets Crean know, who isn’t shy about addressing it with the player.

Along with this comes an emphasis on early graduation. Tom Pritchard and Matt Roth needed three years to earn a bachelor degree, then got their master’s degree in one. Jordan Hulls and Derek Elston earned their bachelor’s degrees in three years, and will spend their final college season working on their master’s. Christian Watford and Maurice Creek are set to graduate in December, which would be 3½ years.

Crean isn’t alone in this academic success at IU. Men’s cross country, men’s golf, men’s swimming and diving, women’s swimming and diving, women's tennis and women’s water polo all recorded a 1,000 APR for the 2010-11 academic year.

Also, men’s golf, women’s tennis, men’s track and women’s track all have the top multi-year scores among their peers in the Big Ten.

And then baseball, men’s golf and women’s tennis were honored for ranking in the top 10 percent in the country in their sports.

“I want to congratulate our student-athletes, coaches and staff for embracing this high priority for our department,” athletic director Fred Glass said in a university release. “These are successes of which all of Hoosier Nation should be proud of.”

What is the APR? According to an IU release, it’s a real-time measure of eligibility and retention of athletes competing on every Division I team. The APR is based on a multi-year rate that, for this year, averages the scores of the 2007-08, 2008-09, 2009-10 and 2010-11 seasons.

Teams need to average at least a 900 out of a possible 1,000 score. That averages to a graduation rate of 50 percent. If not, they can face sanctions including a ban on postseason participation.

IU football, by the way, had a score of 964.


This likely won’t affect Indiana much, but the powers that be in college football have finally seen the light and reached consensus on a playoff instead of maintaining the abomination that is the BCS.

Conference commissioners, plus Notre Dame, met in Chicago worked out most of a plan for a four-team playoff system. Teams would be chosen by a selection committee similar to the NCAA basketball tourney with an emphasis, but not a mandate, on picking conference champions.

If everything gets finalized and passed, it would go into effect in 2014.

This is a big step for a group that resisted a playoff for so long. That includes Big Ten officials, whose infatuation with the bowl system and long-standing lucrative arrangement with the Rose Bowl made then shoot down playoff proposals at every turn.

No more.

Now, an eight-team playoff would have been better, and it might eventually get to that, but that’s another battle for another day.

Sure, it would be nice if Indiana could some day get into the playoff mix. The odds on that happening are long at best. Coach Kevin Wilson is trying to turn the Hoosiers’ perennially struggling program around, and last year’s 1-11 debut season wasn’t a ringing endorsement of his ability to do it.

But IU seemed better in the spring. You’d like to think a year in Wilson’s system, plus the natural maturation process and all the hard work on player development, will pay off. That maybe some day in the not too distant future the Hoosiers could make a football jump the way they did in basketball last season.

Hey, it’s the off-season. Anything is possible now.

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