Buffalo Wrestling: Digging into the APR Scores

When news broke yesterday that UB Wrestling had fallen below the APR line and received a postseason ban for the coming season, Tim sent an email around to the editors with the words "Big news. Big Bad News." And if you want to know the specifics of the news itself, head on over to Tim's piece on the sanctions.

In this post I'm looking to figure out just how bad this downtick is. Coach Stutzman has indicated on Twitter that the program will get better, and it sounds from the press release like none of this is a huge surprise to the Athletic Department. Stutzman is a Danny White hire and should have full support of the AD following a 2013-14 season that improved on the last and will now be buttressed by a top-20 recruiting class.

What we should be concerned about is our UB student-athletes getting the chance to shine at every opportunity. And to that end, I want to figure out just what this 925 number and the accompanying sanction means for UB Wrestling means going forward.

First, a quick refresher on APR:

The APR reflects a team keeping its scholarship athletes in school and keeping them eligible. We don't need to go into the mathematics of how we get to scores in the 900s, but know that a 1000 is perfect. A 925 reflects a 50% graduation rate. Across all sports, Division 1 averages a 973.

And on how APR affects eligibility:

Recent years have seen the NCAA establish stricter and steeper thresholds when it comes to the APR. The old 'default' line of 925 has been raised to 930, and the NCAA has made it easier to receive stronger sanctions if a team does drop below that line. Postseason bans can now occur at the 930 line instead of at 900.

The APR scores you see are in fact four-year rolling averages. That is to say, UB Wrestling's 925 isn't this past year's score, but this past year's score averaged in with the previous three years, as well. Teams can avoid sanctions for next year if their two-year average is above 940 (which would demonstrate clear improvement in the more recent seasons), but that bit is only true for the upcoming season to mitigate the effects of raising the threshold from 925 to 930.

With that in mind, whatever happened to drop Wrestling's 2012-2013 score so low is going to continue affecting the four-year rolling average - which must stay above 930 - for three more years to come. So just how deep of a hole is it?

APR scores are searchable by basically any variable you'd like at this site. All of the data I'm using comes from there.

First, let's just see the APR scores for Wrestling for each season:

Sport School State Academic Year Multi-Year Rate Penalties Postseason
Men's Wrestling University at Buffalo, the State University of New York NY 2004 - 2005 890
Men's Wrestling University at Buffalo, the State University of New York NY 2005 - 2006 886
Men's Wrestling University at Buffalo, the State University of New York NY 2006 - 2007 907
Men's Wrestling University at Buffalo, the State University of New York NY 2007 - 2008 923
Men's Wrestling University at Buffalo, the State University of New York NY 2008 - 2009 952
Men's Wrestling University at Buffalo, the State University of New York NY 2009 - 2010 970
Men's Wrestling University at Buffalo, the State University of New York NY 2010 - 2011 970
Men's Wrestling University at Buffalo, the State University of New York NY 2011 - 2012 961
Men's Wrestling University at Buffalo, the State University of New York NY 2012 - 2013 925 Level One Penalty - Practice Reduction = Yes5
Postseason Ineligibility = Yes5

Remember that these are four-year averages: to get a feel for the APR outlook going forward, we need to know just how much of the dip is due to the most recent seasons that are going to continue to figure into APR for a couple years. The APR can of course also drop because a particularly strong season is now too old to be useful - a perfect 1000 in the midst of three borderline 930s will produce a four-year average of 947.5.

It certainly appears in UB's case that the low wrestling APR is an example of both happening at the same time: The APR dropping 36 points from last year to this means that the 2012-13 year that is newly added into the calculation is 144 points below the 2008-09 year that was lost.

And in fact, you can find the full APR report for all of UB's teams here**. I'll probably dig in over the weekend to look at other sports, but check out the one-year wrestling score: 853. Only one other sport even had a one-year score under 930 (Men's Basketball).

Keeping in mind that the score is basically a manipulated percentage, the 850 range means that 15% of the team's points were lost to academic ineligibility. Assuming everyone stayed in school, that's six guys on a roster of 23. If someone  left school entirely it could be fewer,  but it cost UB the same number of points. Even if t's only three guys, that's enough.

Buffalo was one of six wrestling programs to post a score below 930 for this range. Only one other - Campbell University in North Carolina - also received a postseason ban. While this seems unfair on the surface, it turns out that not one of the other five programs had a one-year score under 910, and one (Utah Valley) actually had a perfect one-year score and will definitely be well above the cutoff this time next year. Buffalo's 853 truly stands out - it is by far the worst score of any wrestling program in the country, and Oregon State is the only other school with a sub-900 score.

With a score in the low-to-mid-800s sitting on the books, it's going to take year-over-year scores in the 960-970 range just to catch the barely acceptable 930 minimum until this score falls away in four years. Fortunately, that's about where the team has been for the last three or four years (see above), so hopefully this is truly a blip on the radar.

UB apparently believes that this is the case, since they are appealing the NCAA sanctions. Given the sustained levels for a number of years prior to 2012-13, it certainly seems like that is the anomaly, but no matter, the anomaly has cut wrestling's margin for error in half if they want to ensure the sanctions stop after one year.

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