NCAA honors sport teams for academic progress

On Friday, the NCAA issued a press release acknowledging the academic success of 712 Division I athletic teams that finished among the top 10 percent in Academic Progress Rate (APR) scores of all squads in their respective sports. Although the total number of teams publicly recognized dropped by 17 percent from 839 teams last year, 192 institutions had at least one team finish among the top 10 percent of all schools in their sport. Overall, 11.4 percent of the 6,272 teams were honored.

While graduation rates for men’s basketball have consistently ranked near the bottom of all sports, eight of this year’s 65 men’s basketball tournament teams were among the 33 teams on the list. Notably, Kansas, which won the men’s basketball national title this year, and North Carolina, the winner in 2005, both were honored for their high APR scores. Xavier, which lost to UCLA in the regional finals, made the list in men’s basketball as did tourney darling Davidson. Perennial power Duke and Illinois, which lost to North Carolina in the 2005 title game, also made the list.

Men’s cross country also had 33 teams listed, while golf produced 32 teams. Tennis (46), volleyball (41) and golf (39) produced the most teams among women’s sports. Neither Tennessee nor Connecticut, the biggest powers in women’s basketball, made the list. The Ivy League accounted for more than one-fifth of all the teams honored, with 150 men’s and women’s teams recognized on the list. The Patriot League was second with 89 and the Big East third at 47.

The APR is calculated by giving each player on each team one point for staying academically eligible and another point for remaining at the school each semester, accumulating a total of four points per year. The scoring system is altered slightly for schools on a quarters-based calendar. The NCAA then uses a mathematical formula to calculate each team’s score. A perfect score is 1,000 and teams that fall below the cutline of 925 are subject to penalties, which include the potential loss of scholarships. APR scores for all Division I sports teams, including the teams receiving public recognition awards, will be announced May 6. The announcement also will include immediate and historical penalties for low-performing teams.

However, last month, Richard Lapchick, head of the University of Central Florida’s Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport, issued a study showing only one of the top four seeds in this year’s tournament graduated more than 50 percent of its players. He also called the disparity in graduation rates between white and black players in men’s basketball the greatest failure in higher education.