Wednesday, April 20, 2016

KU ties athletic department record with 6 perfect scores in 2014-15 academic progress rate report

Fans file through the doors of Allen Fieldhouse past the statue of Phog Allen in this file photo from Monday, Oct. 27, 2014.

Fans file through the doors of Allen Fieldhouse past the statue of Phog Allen in this file photo from Monday, Oct. 27, 2014.


The NCAA revealed Wednesday that Kansas University tied an athletic department record with six teams scoring a perfect APR score of 1,000 for the 2014-15 school year.

In addition, all 16 of KU's varsity athletic programs came in above the 930 multi-year APR number which the NCAA considers to be in “good standing.”

Men’s basketball, men’s golf, women’s basketball, women’s cross country, women’s tennis and volleyball were the six perfect programs in 2014-15, with four of the six holding a multi-year score of 990 or higher.

A team's annual APR (academic progress rate) score is a measure of two things: the overall eligibility of its athletes and the retention of those athletes from semester to semester as they pursue their degrees. Each scholarship athlete in every sport has the potential to earn four points per school year. Two points are possible for being eligible and two points are possible for remaining in good academic standing.

The system came about in 2003 as a new way for universities to track the academic performance of their student-athletes. Until 2003, the only gauges available were team grade-point average and graduation rates. However, researchers discovered that both numbers moved too slowly to matter on a year-to-year basis. Today, with the APR system in place, the numbers are tracked over both a four-year period and on an annual basis, and programs that fall below 930 face the potential for penalties which range from loss of scholarships to postseason bans.

The 1,000 scored by Bill Self’s 2014-15 squad represented a bounce-back of sorts. One year earlier, after a streak of eight perfect years in a row, the program dropped below 1,000 due to a retention penalty.

The star-studded hoops program now has scored 1,000 in nine of the last 10 years but, because of the structure of the APR multi-year score, will need three more perfect years to get the multi-year number back to the top.

Regardless, KU’s Associate Athletics Director for student-athlete support, Paul Buskirk, said Self’s program remains a model of how to blend academic success with athletic achievement.

“Men’s basketball here is still well above the national trends,” Buskirk said.

Men’s and women’s track both had single-year numbers below 930 — the only two KU programs to fall below that threshold — but because the NCAA only worries about the four-year score, there is no penalty for dropping below 930 in any given academic year. Despite that fact, Buskirk said such numbers certainly catch his eye.

“Red flag is a good term,” said Buskirk, who, along with other members of KU’s academic support staff and the head coaches, keeps constant tabs on the academic performance of all of KU’s scholarship athletes. “In track’s case, a lot of life stepped in. There were a lot of personal circumstances that ended up having students leave the program. That does happen, we just happened to have a few happen at the same time.”

Because of past performances, track’s multi-year numbers (936 for men and 956 for women) stayed above the good-standing mark, which gives Buskirk, head coach Stanley Redwine and his student-athletes wiggle room to get things back on track.

“This can happen a couple of times in your four-year measurement and you’re OK,” Buskirk said. “But you can’t do this four years in a row.”

One of KU’s more high-profile programs is headed the opposite way.

After suffering through a couple of low-scoring seasons because of the departure of several scholarship players — many of them junior college transfers — brought in during the Charlie Weis era, the KU football program’s 936 multi-year score, though still on the low side, is higher than in recent years and second-year coach David Beaty’s squad showed progress with a 946 score for the 2014-15 school year. Previously, the football program tallied a 908 single-year APR score for 2013-14.

“The one-year (score) is the encouraging part because our trend is moving in the direction where we need it to go,” Buskirk said. “Coach Beaty is very much on board with what we inherited from the predecessor and he’s doing a fabulous job of managing his numbers.”

In today’s world, with more and more student-athletes leaving school early to pursue professional opportunities — particularly with men’s basketball at Kansas — keeping athletes in good academic standing has become an even greater challenge. But Buskirk said both the continued commitment of his academic support staff while the student-athletes are on campus along with an increase in online opportunities when they are not has made academic performance easier to manage and track.

“We have a variety of options in place to help those students be successful,” Buskirk said. “There’s tremendous flexibility that just didn’t exist 10 years ago. This institution has taken strides which are just phenomenal to help.”

KU’s multi-year APR numbers by program

(2014-15 number in parentheses)

Baseball — 965 (981)

Men’s Basketball — 990 (1,000)

Men’s Cross Country — 966 (947)

Football — 936 (946)

Men’s Golf — 993 (1,000)

Men’s Track — 936 (914)

Women’s Basketball — 973 (1,000)

Women’s Cross Country — 993 (1,000)

Women’s Rowing — 978 (965)

Women’s Golf — 981 (974)

Softball — 976 (977)

Women’s Soccer — 965 (977)

Women’s Swimming — 971 (978)

Women’s Tennis — 968 (1,000)

Women’s Track — 956 (906)

Volleyball — 990 (1,000)


Marius Rowlanski 4 years, 6 months ago

How is it possible to get perfect scores when players leave early and don't return to finish spring classes?

Info purposes only, not taking a cheap shot.

Al Martin 4 years, 6 months ago

From Wikipedia (take it or leave it): "One exception that can be made, is for student-athletes who leave prior to graduation, while in good academic standing, to pursue a professional career."

How "good academic standing" is determined for the spring semester, and whether standing is affected by, say, dropping out of school immediately after the tournament, I don't know.

Dirk Medema 4 years, 6 months ago

I'm not sure about "dropping out of school", but Coach has made comments in the past about him being okay with players going to prepare for the draft with personal trainers in other cities because they had taken care of their academic responsibilities. Don't really know what that looks like, but it's obviously not a traditional class schedule. While not common, they do exist.

Joe Baker 4 years, 6 months ago

Kudos to the athletes for performing in and out of the classroom.


Harlan Hobbs 4 years, 6 months ago

That's been my understanding as well, Al. It's good to know the ground rules so that everyone is on the same playing field.

Indeed this is a highly impressive, long term record. I don't think that anyone else in the conference even comes close to KU's record of achievement on and off the court.

I do understand your point, Marius and Al. Would be interested to know the status of Cheick Diallo for example. Am guessing that he hasn't been on campus for some time now. Will he complete his freshman work so that he leaves in good standing?

Suzi Marshall 4 years, 6 months ago

Great to see that KU Athletics is achieving these great scores. However, the actual performance is in the details. I"m pretty sure UNC went around claiming great academic performance for years.

Dirk Medema 4 years, 6 months ago

What details are you looking for, especially with an insinuation about UNC. Do you personally somehow want proof that all the hundreds of athletes went to all their classes, ...?

There are some athletes that have won through the use of performance enhancing drugs, so all those people out there winning are probably just as average as the rest of us without the drugs.

There are many other areas of life where people have cheated to get ahead. Just goes to show that anyone that gets ahead in life could be a cheater. Details. Details.


Harlan Hobbs 4 years, 6 months ago

Gee, Suzi, if you're still there, you probably weren't expecting such a "pointed" response like Dirk's. Would suggest a "happy" pill for him. Maybe he is trying to take the reins from someone else,who I won't mention, since he hasn't posted to this article.

Anyway, you are absolutely correct in being curious about the possible "waivers" and "loopholes". I don't know what they are, but I am certain that everyone is playing by the same set of standards. Therefore, KU has every right to toot their horn.

As for UNC, until the academic scandal arose, most would have assumed that a program under Dean Smith and later Roy Williams would be squeaky clean. However, that apparently isn't the case.

Finally, yes there are cheaters who get ahead, but I don't give them the time of day when it becomes known. The problem is that what constitutes cheating to some is viewed as shrewd operating by others. However, that is such a huge philosophical question, that I don't really want to spend the time beating it to death.

I'll give one brief example. Was Larry Brown a cheater for hiring Ed Manning as a coach to get Danny to attend KU? Or, softening it some, was he unethical? I say "no." I consider that shrewd operating because Ed was qualified to be a coach given his basketball experience. However, I am sure that many outside the KU program (and even some purists who call themselves Jayhawks) called him a cheater, or at least unethical, for doing that.

Humpy Helsel 4 years, 6 months ago

I think Suzi is just making the point things can look rosy on the outside, and a close look under the hood can reveal something else. Time and again it has been proven this distinction is important. I am going to assume what is being reported is the real deal until shown otherwise. This is so important because there are such fine lines between the time and dedication required for big time college athletics with schedules, travel, time out of classroom, etc, and the assistance these athletes get at a big time school with their academic responsibilities. It must have some parity on what is provided and available to any student who is not on any athletic scholarship. For example, what academic accommodations are being made to students with learning differences, physical and mental health limitations or impairments, etc. The struggle to maintain the spirit of university and a balance between an increasingly blurred line of big time college sports being de facto professional sports, and full blown hypocrisy, requires constant vigilance.

Suzi Marshall 4 years, 6 months ago

Yes, exactly. I thought that should be apparent and did not want to get into a long winded explanation in a situation that seemed to have a total disconnect.

The problem with all the other items you mentioned is money or lack there of. With regards to the BBall situation and academics, I find myself going two ways. The first thinking of University like a sort of trade school for those learning BBall. The second being the need and social responsibility to bestow a needed higher education on those less fortunate, especially since earning money as a pro-player is such a longshot and involves so few.

The rumors are rampant that the NCAA will come down hard on UNC, not hitting them with the 'death penalty' but might remove a NC or two. Nobody does a better job balancing academics with BBall than Bill Self. Kansas is very fortunate to have Self at our helm.

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