The men’s basketball, soccer, golf and football teams could face a loss of scholarships this December, based on the NCAA’s new Academic Progress Rate, a system developed to keep student-athletes accountable for their performance in the classroom.
But the University said it was mistakes by a former athletic department official, not student-athletes, which led to Temple’s insufficient APR.
“There were some mistakes in the numbers of the reports,” said Walter Holliday, director of Athletic Support for student-athletes. “In the areas of retention, we had a couple of students that graduated at the end of May that were not listed as graduated.”
The APR reports were issued to university presidents on Feb. 14. Temple’s overall score was 921, four points below the minimum 925. Four teams – men’s basketball, soccer, golf and football – scored below 925. While the baseball and women’s basketball teams’ scores were lower than 925, their small roster size prevents them from receiving penalties. Four non-revenue teams – men’s and women’s tennis and track and field – earned perfect scores.
If a team falls below 925, it could face scholarship sanctions and suspension from postseason play.
The athletics department said the problem was not with the student-athletes or the NCAA, but with the information the University submitted for the report. Holliday said an athletics official, who left Temple two weeks after filing the data, filed what turned out to be a flawed report.
But student-athletes won’t be penalized if there was faulty reporting, said Kent Barrett, NCAA associate director of public and media relations. Universities have the opportunity to report inaccuracies for the final edition of the APR.
“These numbers are purely informational. Some institutions are finding discrepancies in the numbers, and they are submitting corrections,” Barrett said. “A finalized version of the report will be available in mid-April.”
Since they received the APR report in February, Holliday and the advisers in the academic support office have been reviewing the grades of every student-athlete. What they found was much different from what the NCAA originally reported, Holliday said. According to their calculations, Temple scored a 940 overall, not 921 as the APR disclosed.
The department’s revised report looks a lot different from the NCAA’s.
“With the new calculations, as we stand right now, it’s 15 teams out of 20 [that] are above the cut-off rate, and a possible four additional teams. So as it stands right now we could have 19 teams out of 20 above the cut-off rate,” Holliday said. “With these adjustments I think we’d be fine.”
A team’s APR is measured by two factors – eligibility and retention. A student-athlete achieves a perfect score by remaining eligible for an entire semester and returning after it.
Eligibility is not a new concern, but retention is a new focus that stems from the multitude of football and basketball players who leave school for the professional ranks.
Universities’ and teams’ APRs are based on a 1000-point scale. The NCAA settled upon a score of 925 as the minimum threshold based on the association’s formula for determining graduation rates. A score of 925 means a team has a 50 percent graduation rate.
For teams with fewer members, like men’s basketball, a squad-size adjustment usually will minimize the impact of a non-returning athlete. Because these teams’ rosters are so small, the NCAA allows for a “confidence interval,” an approximate range in which the actual score likely falls.
The confidence boundary for smaller squads is larger, and they can only be suspended if the upper confidence boundary falls below 925. The men’s basketball team scored an 818.
For a team that scores below 925, the consequences are almost immediate. If an athlete on a deficient team doesn’t receive either of his or her two possible points, it receives a “contemporaneous penalty.” Under such a penalty, the team cannot grant the scholarship to another athlete.
A team cannot lose more than 10 percent of its players because of APR shortcomings.
“It’s not meant to decimate a squad,” Barrett said.
For teams that continue to perform below expectations, the potential penalties are much greater. The NCAA Committee on Academic Performance will confirm the details of the penalties over the next year. For now, those penalties will include recruiting or financial aid restrictions, postseason bans and restricted membership status.
The APR report is the first of its kind. Like the first edition of the NCAA’s Graduation Rates Report four years ago, this report has many flaws, Holliday said.
“The first time going through any new system there are things that go wrong, you know just working out the kinks,” Holliday said. “We knew it would be interesting the first time around.”
Christopher Reber can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.