Hard to Find Evidence of One-and-Done Academics in NCAA Numbers

Brad Wolverton of the Chronicle of Higher Education on Kentucky’s trend of “one-and-done” basketball players:

It turns out, the team’s NCAA Graduation Success Rate has improved sharply in recent years, to more than 80 percent (it was 44 percent a few years ago). And in the past two years, its NCAA Academic Progress Rate, which measures team members’ real-time progress toward degrees, has exceeded the national average. Over the last three years, the team has had a 3.0 cumulative grade-point average.

None of these numbers really tell you much about the academics of one-and-dones. The Graduation Success Rate is only up to the 2006 cohort, so it still does not take into account Calipari’s teams. That said the APRs which the team is posting suggests that the GSR will not dip that much due the freshmen departing for the NBA, as both take into account departures for professional leagues in a similar manner. It would be the Federal Graduation Rate where we might see a significant drop-off since it treats all athletes who fail to graduate the same regardless of why.

With the APR, one-and-dones may seem like a lot especially when they comprise all or most of a recruiting class. But in Kentucky’s case, they are still less than one-third of the APR cohort. That is not insignificant though; the departures of Calipari’s first freshman class at Kentucky in 2010 had an APR impact similar to if 26 football players from one institution all went to the NFL early. But that still leaves sizable majority of the team earning APR points. A player leaving for the NBA is also less likely to hurt the APR than a transfer even with a lower level of academic achievement.

The NCAA has better information buried in the APR data. The NCAA research staff could build an APR cohort of one-and-dones. That “team’s” APR score could then be calculated and compared to men’s basketball players as a whole, other similar cohorts like sophomores who depart for the NBA, and a “super team” made up of the combined APR scores for all the teams that included the one-and-done players. That would go further to answering the question of whether one-and-done players have any significant differences academically than other men’s basketball players.