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Wednesday, March 2, 2005

KUAC clarifies APR process

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The loss-of-scholarship punishment is enough to make almost every Kansas University coach cringe, but a presentation at Tuesday's KUAC board meeting showed that the NCAA's new Academic Progress Rate consequences weren't as harsh as they might have seemed.

Paul Buskirk, associate athletic director for student support, spent much of the meeting explaining the intricacies of the NCAA's system, which debuted with a bang Monday after a report card for each of the 328 Division One schools was released.

KU had three of its 18 athletic programs fall short of the 925-point bar -- women's basketball (780), baseball (864) and football (899). A fourth, men's basketball, scored a 923, but was considered in OK shape due to a margin-of-error safety zone for programs with fewer scholarship athletes.

To compile points, the new calculation gives one point per scholarship athlete per semester for remaining eligible and another point for remaining on campus. The points then are calculated for each program and divided by the highest possible point total. To complicate it even more, that percentage then is assessed a point total, with 1,000 being the maximum. A 925-point minimum to be considered safe essentially is the same as compiling 92.5 percent of all possible points within a program.

Monday's report card, which calculated points from the 2003-04 school year -- comes with no punishment for a sub-standard point total, but the next one slated to be released this fall will. It will include the 03-04 and 04-05 school years.

"This information is an audit of our program. There's no penalties," Buskirk said. "It's says we should make sure we have the attention of all of our coaches, and we do."

Even if football or baseball or women's hoops fails to clear the 925-point bar when the next report comes out, it doesn't necessarily mean that scholarships would be taken away. A scholarship loss only is assessed if a student-athlete goes zero for two in a particular semester -- that is, an athlete leaves school and does so in poor academic standing, resulting in no points out of the two possible.

Therefore, many students who do transfer -- like former KU men's basketball players Omar Wilkes and David Padgett, for example -- won't cost the program scholarships, even if they do hurt the team's APR point total, because both left in good academic standing.

"The only time a scholarship is lost is if a single student in a given semester is 0-for-2," Buskirk said. "If that happens, that student's scholarship is withheld for a year."

But it's important to remember that if an athlete goes 0-for-2 and the program still scores above 925, no penalty would be assessed.

The most a program could be penalized is 10 percent of its allotted scholarships, but Buskirk and athletic director Lew Perkins were confident that all 18 of KU's programs would be able to avoid any sort of penalty in the future.

As complicated and frustrating as the whole system is to comprehend, Perkins still found time to crack a joke or two about it Tuesday.

"My prediction," Perkins said with a grin, "is that once we understand this in three or four years, they'll change it again."

Also discussed at Tuesday's board meeting was the fund raising by the Williams Fund, which associate athletic director Sean Lester said was doing well. Lester reported that the fund had secured $7.9 million in unrestricted income, or donations, this year -- about $1.1 million ahead of where they projected to be by March 1.

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