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APR Scores for the Major Sports: What are They and What do they Suggest?

Yeah, you can blame this on Houston Nutt. Really.
Yeah, you can blame this on Houston Nutt. Really.

Last week, the Academic Progress Rates (APRs) of the SEC member institutions and their individual sports were released. For the uninformed, the APR is a score which determines the overall academic "health" of an individual athletics program. If the student athletes who comprise a particular program are performing well in the classroom and on their way to earning a college degree, then that program's APR score will be higher than one which, say, has a lot of players fail out or transfer.

This metric is used by the NCAA to, if necessary, punish programs for failing to promote the first half of the term "student athlete" via sanctions such as a reduction in allowed practice time (yes, the NCAA dictates that) or athletic scholarships.

First, to address your most pressing question, no, Ole Miss isn't in any sort of APR trouble right now. We came close in football, but overall the academic health of the Ole Miss athletics program is strong. In fact, one particular program is very strong in a way that few of us have likely noticed and even fewer have been willing to give credit for.

That program, unfortunately, is not our football program. The football team's APR is 933 right now. That's good for second-to-last in the SEC, and just a few points away from an NCAA violation. If you look at that link, you'll notice that the teams which are towards the bottom in the SEC - Tennessee, Arkansas, Texas A&M - are teams whose overall programs haven't been terrifically stable as of late. The hiring and firing of coaches and athletics directors and the "get rich quick" scheme of recruiting talented but, frankly, troubled football players have been hallmarks of these programs (especially ours and Tennessee's) as of late. This instability doesn't promote good performance in the classroom, nor does it promote player loyalty. A lack of systemic control and poor discipline, which in turn leads to bad grades, dismissals, and transfers, are exactly what cultivated these poor APR scores. And nothing says "Houston Nutt coaches this football program" quite as well as a lack of control and poor discipline.

The football program isn't in too deep, thankfully, but Hugh Freeze does have a bit of a mountain to climb in terms of restoring the team's APR to a respectable, manageable level.

The basketball program, on the other hand, posted a stunning 990 APR this year. Not only is that the best APR score of any men's sport at Ole Miss (The basketballers even beat out the notoriously straight-laced tennis program in academic progress rate.), but it's the best APR score of any men's basketball program in the SEC. It's a mere ten points shy from a perfect 1000! And it's Andy Kennedy's basketball program!

At first, this really is surprising. But upon closer inspection, it becomes clear as to how and why Kennedy has been able to maintain such success in the classroom. For starters, he is known as a disciplinarian, and has routinely demonstrated a quicker trigger finger with regards to dismissals. This has apparently rubbed off on his players who, to their credit, have gone to class and performed well enough in that regard. Secondly, Kennedy has done a good job of keeping players on the roster until they either graduate or leave for professional opportunities. Leaving school to go pro has no negative APR impact, which is why Kentucky's is routinely so high, despite few of their players receiving degrees. And finally, many of the players that he has had transfer in recent years - Eniel Polynice, Trevor Gaskins, and Will Bogan, for example - earned their degrees before leaving Oxford, which has no negative impact on APR.

While we at the Cup may be very critical of Andy Kennedy's successes or the lack thereof during his time in Oxford, we cannot say that his program has been anything but stable. This year, with Dundrecous Nelson being bamboozled by a pizza delivery man and Jelan Kendrick being himself, saw perhaps one of the least stable seasons in Kennedy's tenure, and yet this team still won 20 games and had a winning record against SEC foes. As a result of the dismissal of Nelson and Kendrick, as well as the departure of Maurice Aniefiok, the program's APR is bound to take a hit, but it has been built up so well over the past several years that an APR hit is something that the program can easily weather, a luxury which Coach Kennedy has earned.

So give Coach Andy Kennedy some credit with this one. He has done something which our football program has not, and that's largely maintain stability in the increasingly unstable world of college athletics.