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about 3 months ago

Penn State Football’s Academic Progress Rate Last in Big Ten

O'Brien on SI

Penn State football’s Academic Progress Rate dipped to the bottom of the Big Ten during the 2012-2013 school year extending the downward trend to five years, according to data released by the NCAA. The Nittany Lions clocked in at 954 this year — three points above the national average, but seven points lower than last year’s 961 mark, which then placed them sixth in the Big Ten.

The rate is one of two primary ways that the NCAA monitors the academics of its member institutions, along with graduation rate.

The NCAA calculates APR as follows:

Each student-athlete receiving athletically related financial aid earns one point for staying in school and one point for being academically eligible. A team’s total points are divided by points possible and multiplied by 1,000 to produce the team’s APR. A 930 APR predicts about a 50 percent graduation rate. Teams falling below an APR of 930 face sanctions ranging from practice-time reductions to more severe penalties.

The NCAA isn’t kidding, either: Oklahoma State will reportedly forfeit a day of practice every week for missing its required four-year APR mark of 930.

Northwestern led the conference with an APR of 991, second to only Duke in the FBS. Penn State’s score was 17 points lower than the program’s highest rate from 2007-2011.

This isn’t necessarily a cause for concern — Penn State’s APR is more than 20 points higher than the NCAA’s threshold, and most other sports performed very well. And while Bill O’Brien’s tenure might appear to have been a stumbling block in the “Grand Experiment,” there are some special circumstances to keep in mind.

First, this is data from 2012-13, and the 2013-14 data will provide a more accurate picture of his tenure. Second, it’s tough to say how the transfers affected the rate. According to ESPN, an eligible athlete who transfers with a GPA above 2.6 does not hurt the school’s retention rate, but with all of the athletes who left, some of them could have dented Penn State’s mark. Finally, Penn State’s graduation rate was phenomenal once again this year. Still, let’s hope James Franklin bucks this trend in the near future.

UPDATE, 2:02 p.m.: Spokesman Jeff Nelson e-mailed that “the players who transferred after the sanctions reduced the number of earned retention points in the APR formula, which has impacted the team’s four-year APR score in the recently announced data through the 2012-13 academic year.” He pointed out that Penn State football has never had a below-average APR score.

image Dave Cole
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