One of the major successes of the NCAA’s Academic Progress Rate, or APR, has been just how much the APR is talked about. Coaches obsess over it, fans follow it, and current student-athletes can be affected by it. Less discussed is how the APR affects recruits.
Luckily, prospects are in a great position to do something about the APR, provided they are willing to do the research. The biggest thing prospects can do to is to avoid putting themselves in a position where they end up paying for a team’s APR troubles that they may have had little or nothing to do with themselves.
The Academic Progress Rate is a measure of how well a team has done in two areas: student-athletes remaining academically eligible and student-athletes being retained or graduating. That rate is calculated every term, which is combined with the other terms in an academic year to get a single year rate. The most recent four single year rates are combined to make a multi-year rate which is the basis for APR penalties.
The APR Cohort
Calculating APR starts with determining the APR cohort, the group of student-athletes who will make up the APR score. The APR cohort is normally all student-athletes on an athletic scholarship who were enrolled for a term. If a team does not offer scholarships (like Ivy League schools), the APR includes all student-athletes enrolled for a term who meet the NCAA’s definition of a recruited student-athlete (i.e. was given an official visit, coach made a home visit, or was called more than once).
Calculating the APR
Each student-athlete in the APR cohort can earn two points each term: one point for being academically eligible for the following term and one point for enrolling full time for the following term (or graduating). Normally a student-athlete can earn four points over the course of a year (six at a quarter school). There are situations though were a student-athlete does not lose a point, but does not gain one either. An example is a student-athlete who transfers but meets an exception in the APR guidelines. Her score would be 1/1 point for that term, since the retention point is not counted.
Single Year and Multi-Year
To calculate a single year rate, you take all the student-athletes in the cohort and add up their possible points and their earned points. For example, imagine you have a men’s basketball team with the following situation:
• Ten players are eligible and return or graduate: Each 4/4 points.
• One player is eligible, but transfers: 3/4 points.
• One player is ineligible and leaves school: 2/4 points.
• One player is eligible, transfers, and qualifies for an exception: 3/3 points.
This team had a total of 51 points possible and earned 48. Some quick math: 48/51 = .941 * 1000 = 941. That 941 would be the single year rate for this team.
To calculate the multi-year rate, all of the points earned over the most recent four years are added up and divided by all the points possible over the same four years. If a team has fewer points and possible points in one year (because of fewer athletes on scholarship), that year will have less of an impact on the multi-year rate than a year with a larger cohort.
What This Means for Recruits
Knowing how the APR is calculated is important for recruits to understand how APR works and what a good or bad APR score tells you about a team. The goal is not to calculate a school’s APR on your own. That’s possible only in a select few sports and will only ever be an approximation.
Rather, this knowledge helps recruits and their families understand how individual events can affect the APR. Knowing that a rash of transfers could impact the APR dramatically or not at all gives athletes and parents a jumping off point to discuss the event with coaches. That will be the constant refrain with APR for recruits: it’s one of the best ways to start a conversation about academics.
In the companion to this article, we’ll look what you can learn from APR reports and how to start going beyond the raw numbers of an APR score.