Color me surprised!
The NCAA made a common sense, easy to implement, measurable way to deal with some of the underhanded practices and out right insult to academics that have given college athletics a bad name. The NCAA Board of Directors voted to ban Division I teams with a four-year academic progress rate (APR) below 930 from participating in the postseason, including all NCAA tournaments and football bowl games.
What is the Academic Progress rate?
APR is a metric established by the NCAA to indicate the success of collegiate athletic teams in moving student athletes towards graduation. Each player on a teams earns a maximum of two points per term, one for being academically eligible and one for staying with the institution.
A team's APR is the total points of a team's roster at a given time divided by the total points possible. Since this results in a decimal number, the committee of academic performance decided to multiply it by 1,000 for ease of reference. So if every student you have on the roster is eligible to play that year and stays with the school, or graduates, you would receive an APR score of 1,000.
APR will now measured on a four year rotating scale so that a particularly bad year like the one UB just had will not bring the schools APR score below the threshold. The reason for this is that often when a Coach leaves, like Turner Gill did, many players go as well. That negatively impacts the APR for the current season but only counts 25% towards the programs running APR.
Under current rules if that number had dropped below 925 then a school would get hit with some minor sanctions like the loss of a few scholarships. Only when a schools four year average dropped below 900 would true pain kick in.
Gone is the 900 cutoff and in is a 930 benchmark, or else.
Or else what!
Or else you sit home for the post season. This forces all teams to raise their academic standards or sit on the sidelines in the postseason. Under the new standards, 12 NCAA Basketball programs would not have qualified for this year's NCAA tournament, including Ohio State and Syracuse.
"A 930 equates to a 50 percent graduation rate and that is the stake in the ground that the presidents wish to put in as an overall goal for every team in Division I. It's a clear marker. We believe a 50 percent graduation rate is a reasonable goal for all teams." -- Dr. Walt Harrison, president of the University of Hartford and chair of the Division I committee on academic performance
The Real World Impact
This would have kept six teams from Bowling last year. Maryland 929, UTEP 928, Florida State 927, Louisville 926, Mississippi 921, FIU 906. But before we got overjoyed that a MAC team, 8-4 Temple could have swooped in consider that their score is also currently below the threshold. Western Michigan however, at 6-6, would have picked up one of the slots. But that's it, no other team with a 6-6 record (and five wins against FBS schools) could have filled in.
That means right no there are not enough teams to fill out Bowl Calendars. The NCAA is responding by giving teams time to implement this. How much time? They don't quite know. But one thing is for sure either a lot of schools have to get their act together, bowl games will have to take teams with losing records, or the will be fewer bowls.
On the hoops side a dozen more slots would have opened up, including those slots taken by Ohio State, Syracuse, and Kansas State. There would be little trouble filling those spots in terms of numbers but the high performing basketball programs, the ones who move players to the NBA before they graduate, now have the challenge of making sure those that don't move on to the NBA stay in school and keep their grades up.
There will be crying from hoops power like Syracuse.. Cue the crying:
"There is absolutely nothing a coach can do if a kid wants to leave and train for the NBA. If he was leaving and walking the streets, I'd understand. When those kids left, they were eligible. They opted not to finish." -- Jim Boeheim
But what about the other dozen guys on scholarship? When is the last time a school had four or five juniors leave for the NBA? All this rule says is that half of your team has to stay in school.
What does this mean for the MAC?
If schools don't catch up by the time these standards are in place or there is not hyper inflation of membership in the Bowl Subdivision some bowls will be lost. There is no appetite for a bowl gamin involving teams with losing records. 6-6 teams are barely palatable.
The Bowls that will be lost are bowls for conference like the MAC, Sun-Belt, and WAC. You may not see three Bowl tie in with several backup spots. The MAC may fall to two Bowl games or lose some backups as other bowls fall off the mark. Three bowl games would have fallen off the map last season.
But its not all bad news. The MAC, as a conference, has very good APR scores and competition for Bowl games is tight. Last year two MAC teams got left out, now if the MAC keeps its graduation rate up that will be less likely to happen.
Sure teams will find a way to game this system just like any other. Academic ringers will be on the sideline, a spike in basket weaving majors, and some outright academic fraud will at some point be utilized to preserve an NCAA bid but it will be more difficult to get away with and the consequences could be much more dire.
This is a great day for College Athletics were not rolling back the clock to a 'more innocent time' but we are, at the very least, holding the line against the setting of the sun.