When APR scores and penalties were released a couple weeks ago, Alabama State stood out with four teams banned from the postseason: football, men’s basketball, baseball and volleyball. But the process is not quite over yet for the Hornets. Waivers of APR penalties can still be filed, and so far ASU is batting .500:
The NCAA informed ASU of its decision, which will allow the women’s volleyball and baseball teams to be eligible to qualify for, and compete in, Southwestern Athletic Conference championship tournaments, and subsequent NCAA Tournament play if postseason bids are won.
The APRs postseason access piece is still in transition, but APR penalties have never been a black-and-white affair. Low-resource institutions have different benchmarks as the transition takes place, and there are exceptions built into the system to not punish teams for one exceptionally bad year if the numbers stack up in other ways.
A waiver of an APR penalty is different in that it starts to go beyond the numbers into the school’s plans and actions, which Alabama State’s interim president Dr. William H. Harris touted:
“We believe this decision is evidence of progress, showing that changes we have implemented, both in programs and personnel, are providing positive measureable [sic] results.”
ASU’s waiver sought to show that the school had fixed the problems, but was carrying so much baggage from previous years that it could not hit the numbers necessary to avoid penalties. More light is shed on the waiver decisions by looking at how each of the four sports got to this point. Here are the sports and their four-year APR scores followed by the single-year component scores:
- Baseball (864): 737, 895, 929, 978
- Volleyball (889): 979, 833, 952, 879
- Men’s Basketball (821): 800, 886, 745, 900
- Football (866): 870, 883, 840, 905
Baseball’s waiver is easy to understand, with consistent strong improvement over the four years. Volleyball has bounced around more, but what separate both from the other two sports is that each has posted solid single-year scores while men’s basketball and football are peaking in the low 900s. Baseball and volleyball also both underwent coaching changes following the 2010–11 season, which may have been a factor in the waivers.
This is an example of how there is more than meets the eye with APR scores and how the NCAA has evolved the measure beyond a simple tool. And it also shows how the NCAA is understanding of the challenges of low-resource and HBCU institution when it comes to the APR. At the same time, if the NCAA ultimately denies the men’s basketball and football waivers, it would send a message that understanding does not mean letting an institution off the hook completely.