When Clemson's Dabo Swinney learned he was No. 1 among the nation's FBS coaches in the Academic Progress Rate rankings compiled by CBSSports.com, he grinned.
"I can be No. 1 in America in the APR every year but if I don't win enough games at Clemson," Swinney said laughing, "they're not going to keep me here very long."
|Best Coaches by APR|
|1. Dabo Swinney, Clemson||988|
|2. Pat Fitzgerald, Northwestern||986|
|3. Ken Niumatalolo, Navy||981|
|4. x-Paul Johnson, Georgia Tech||980|
|4. Greg Schiano, Rutgers||980|
|6. Troy Calhoun, Air Force||979|
|7. Frank Spaziani, Boston College||978|
|8. x-David Cutcliffe, Duke||976|
|9. Chris Petersen, Boise State||975|
|10. Rick Stockstill, Middle Tenn.||973|
|Worst Coaches by APR|
|1. Charlie Strong, Louisville||869|
|2. Rob Ianello, Akron||900|
|3. Larry Porter, Memphis||903|
|4. Neil Callaway, UAB||904|
|5. Ron English, Eastern Michigan||918|
|5. Howard Schnellenberger, FAU||918|
|5. Jeff Quinn, Buffalo||918|
|8. Paul Rhoads, Iowa State||919|
|9. x-Todd Berry, La.-Monroe||920|
|10. Mike Price, UTEP||920|
|x-NCAA's APR data was from coach's current and/or previous schools between 2003-10|
CBSSports.com compiled the APR averages of 109 of the 120 coaches in the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) using data provided by the NCAA. CBSSports.com's study is based on the NCAA's available data between 2003-04 and 2009-10 so 11 coaches debuting this season were not included.
Swinney's teams at Clemson have averaged 988 out of a possible 1,000 points in the APR.
"There's no secret formula," Swinney said. "It's just a total commitment from all aspects: the administration, the coaching staff and the players. You have to have really good policies that everyone understands. We have that here. Everyone is on the same page. It's black and white.
"We work really hard to make sure the guys are doing what they're supposed to do [academically]. If not, you can't look the other way. You deal with it. You create a culture. If you miss something, it will be dealt with. There are consequences for all actions."
Northwestern's Pat Fitzgerald (986) had the nation's second-best APR average followed by Navy's Ken Niumatalolo (981).
"I'd love to say there's a perfect science to it, but No. 1 it starts with the mission and vision of the university," Fitzgerald said. "What we want to attract to the program leads us down the right path to academic success. We don't look for [academic] excuses. We stay true to that. The guys understand that and value the experience here. Players take a very proactive approach to what they want to do academically."
The ACC had four coaches -- Swinney, Georgia Tech's Paul Johnson (tied for fourth, 980), Boston College's Frank Spaziani (seventh, 979) and Duke's David Cutcliffe (eighth, 976) -- ranked among the nation's top eight and five of the top 13.
Not surprisingly, the ACC's coaches easily had the highest average (961.7) among the 11 FBS conferences.
"This is an excellent example of our schools' commitment to upholding the academic and athletic balance that's been a cornerstone of the ACC since its formation," ACC commissioner John Swofford said. "The dedication of our coaches and their support staffs should be commended as well as the hard work put forth by the players."
Rounding out the top-10 coaches: Rutgers' Greg Schiano (tied for fourth, 980), Air Force's Troy Calhoun (sixth, 979), Boise State's Chris Petersen (ninth, 975) and Middle Tennessee's Rick Stockstill (10th, 973).
In the past two seasons, no coach's team has achieved better APR scores than Petersen's -- a perfect 1,000 in 2008-09 and 997 in 2009-10. Under Schiano, Rutgers has ranked among the top three schools in APR rankings in each of the past four seasons, the nation's only football program to do so.
"When you're a football coach the coaches get scrutinized over everything but I think the intangibles of Greg Schiano are the things he delivers like this," Rutgers athletic director Tim Pernetti said. "He's really taught his student-athletes the true meaning of balance [between academics and athletics]. Look at his APR [ranking] and where we've been under his tenure. It's one of the great stories we look forward to telling every single year and we expect it to be there every single year."
|APR rankings by conference|
|2. Big Ten||959.4|
|3. Mountain West||954.0|
|5. Big East||942.9|
|9. Big 12||937.6|
|10. Sun Belt||937.4|
|11. Conference USA||932.5|
After the ACC, the Big Ten had the second-highest conference average (959.4) followed by the Mountain West at 954.
The Big Ten had five coaches -- Fitzgerald, Wisconsin's Bret Bielema, Penn State's Joe Paterno, Purdue's Danny Hope and Minnesota's Jerry Kill -- ranked among the nation's top 19.
The Big Ten also had a national-best eight coaches among the top 31. By comparison, the highest ranked coaches from the Pac-12 (Utah's Kyle Whittingham) and Big 12 (Missouri's Gary Pinkel) only ranked 31st and 39th respectively.
Swinney and Fitzgerald said the APR scores are an accurate way to judge a program's academic success.
"Absolutely," Fitzgerald said. "You're looking at real-time retention and eligibility ratio. Are you retaining players and are they eligible?"
Recruits and families should look at a program's APR scores and graduation rates to get a realistic look at the school's academic commitment, Fitzgerald said.
"It gives you a real snapshot of the academics of a university," Fitzgerald said.
In 2003, the NCAA created the APR to monitor academic progress at its member institutions. The APR is a formula that measures semester-by-semester academic progress based on the eligibility and retention of each scholarship student-athlete. Programs that don't meet minimum requirements, including scoring at least 925, are subject to losing scholarships.
The NCAA's database of the coaches' year-by-year APR scores was created for "more transparency in the Academic-Performance Program and to strengthen the accountability of coaches for the academic performance of their student-athletes."
The coaches received credit if they were in place at any point during an academic year from Aug. 1 to July 31 and were assigned that team's APR for that year. Each coach's average APR ranking included all years they were a head coach between 2003 and 2010, even if they were at more than one school in that time frame.
Of the coaches with the worst APR rankings in CBSSports.com's study, 19 of the 27 lowest averages were from coaches at non-automatic qualifying BCS conferences.
The lowest 10 APR coaching averages: Louisville's Charlie Strong (869), Akron's Rob Ianello (900), Memphis' Larry Porter (903), UAB's Neil Callaway (904), Eastern Michigan's Ron English (918), Florida Atlantic's Howard Schnellenberger (918), Buffalo's Jeff Quinn (918), Iowa State's Paul Rhoads (919), Louisiana-Monroe's Todd Berry (920) and UTEP's Mike Price (920).
Overall, Conference USA's coaches had the nation's lowest conference APR at 932.5. The Sun Belt (937.4) was the second worst followed by the Big 12 (937.6).