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Returning Student From the 1990s Saves Oklahoma State From APR Penalties

Sam Cooper for Yahoo! Sports Dr. Saturday blog:

[Oklahoma State] announced Tuesday that the NCAA confirmed that the Cowboys football program’s APR has been “amended” thanks to the discovery that a student-athlete from the 1990s had recently graduated from Oklahoma State.

This “delayed graduation point” bumped the team’s average score up from 929.41 to 930 – the NCAA’s minimum APR requirement – and eliminated the NCAA penalty which stated the Cowboys would lose two hours of “countable athletic activity” and one practice day per week.

This is how delayed graduation points work according to the NCAA Academic Performance Program Manual:

An institution will be awarded an APR point (i.e., “1/0”) for a former student-athlete who departed an institution without graduating and returns to the institution and graduates or continues enrollment at the institution and graduates. This point will be awarded to the team’s APR in the academic year (i.e., term) the former student-athlete graduates, provided the former student-athlete meets the criteria listed below.

  1. The former student-athlete graduates from the institution in any academic year that comprises the team’s most recent four-year APR, not from another institution.
  2. The former student-athlete cannot satisfy the definition to be included in the team’s APR cohort in the term in which he or she graduated from the institution.
  3. The former student-athlete must have lost either the eligibility or retention point in his or her last term in the APR cohort, or would have lost a point if the student-athlete departed prior to the implementation of the APR in 2003–04 or prior to when the institution was first required to submit APR data (e.g., multidivisional or reclassifying institution).

Whether this makes sense depends on which of two conflicting ideas you think is more important. On the one hand, APR is designed to incentive Division I schools to get athletes to graduate. In this case, Oklahoma State is being rewarded for an athlete graduating, the ultimate goal of the APR. On the other hand, the APR is supposed to be a “real time” measure of eligibility and retention where the 930 benchmark is supposed to correlate with a 50% Graduation Success Rate. Graduating an athlete who has not been part of the team for 15 years or more muddies the analysis of the “real time” performance of the Oklahoma State football team and does not change Oklahoma State’s GSR or Federal Graduation Rate since the time limits have long passed.

To fix this, the NCAA should do one of two things. One solution is to limit the point at which a team can go back and recover APR points. I suggest the student in question should need to be part of the APR cohort for one of the four years currently being used or be within six years of initial enrollment, whichever comes first. That would bring the APR in line with time limits for graduation used by the FGR and GSR.

The other solution would be to prove that this is valuable. Everyone knows the stats that show the value of a college degree. If the NCAA wants to give teams crediting for graduating players after this type of delay, it should show that graduating students up to 20 years after they started college has at least some of the same benefits.

If the NCAA does neither, then it should not be surprised when the APR is criticized as a measure which fails to bring about meaningful change and which can easily be manipulated by schools, especially revenue sports in the power conferences. To the greatest extent possible, APR should be about the students currently on the team. Awarding points two decades after the fact does not help that.

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