Study: How and why the APR is improving major-program academics

Over eight years worth of APR results, the numbers show schools are improving. (USATSI)
Over eight years worth of APR results, the numbers show schools are improving. (USATSI)

College basketball programs are improving performance -- in the classroom. They are graduating more players. The system seems to be working. What system? The Academic Progress Rate, an annual report on athletic programs' ability to retain and graduate players.

The NCAA last week released its most recent report on the APR. Connecticut, which was deemed ineligible for the 2013 postseason due to low numbers, will once again be able to play playoff basketball next March. Six programs won't be due to failing to land above the 900 threshold for average APR over a four-year period.

None of those ineligible teams come from major conferences. Wondering how major programs are performing in the age of the APR? Continue reading. I did a similar study on this three years ago, when the APR was five years into its implementation. With conference realignment reconfiguring the collegiate landscape, I thought it'd be good to look at which leagues are doing the best according to the APR, and which programs are improving or declining in overall average score.

Keep in mind that most of these schools listed have had at least two coaches over the span of the APR's evaluation period (with composite scores dating back to 2004-05). When last reviewed, these were the mean APR scores for the major conferences.

  • ACC (953)
  • BIG TEN (949)
  • BIG EAST (944)
  • PAC-10 (940)
  • BIG 12 (936)
  • SEC (931)

Below, you'll see every conference's average overall APR score has risen. The same goes for most programs within those leagues, then. On the whole, this is an indicator the system is working. How is the APR calculated? Check it. The framework has its critics, but in general it's doing its job and policing all of college athletics in a good way. Read: Most programs are getting the message and, on the face of it, improving their performance in the classroom.

Moreover, this is a good sign, considering the APR floor for postseason eligibility is getting bumped in a couple of years from 900 to 930. Most schools are ahead of the curve. Listed below are the major conferences as they'll be filled out for the 2013-14 season. The numbers to the right of the teams are:

-- Average composite APR since it began.
-- Average APR in the past three reports (positive or negative trend points in parentheses).
-- The lowest and highest APR marks for said program since the NCAA began using the metric.
-- Mentions of scholarship losses, postseason bans and historical penalties are denoted in parentheses where applicable.

The span for lows and highs for some of these programs is staggering, to be honest. Let's look at how each major conference -- including the American and rebuilt Big East -- sort out from best to worst.

ACC (956)

Notre Dame: 985 / 996 (+11) / 971-1000
Duke: 985 / 993 (+8) / 972-995
North Carolina: 984 / 969 (-15) / 959-995
North Carolina State: 970 / 981 (+11) / 922-995
Miami: 962 / 982 (+20) / 929-990
Wake Forest: 962 / 945 (-17) / 939-986
Virginia Tech: 958 / 981 (+23) / 930-985
Pittsburgh: 953 / 983 (+30) / 905-990
Boston College: 952 / 963 (+11) / 917-978
Florida State: 951 / 944 (-7) / 926-980
Virginia: 939 / 942 (+3) / 917-952
Syracuse (two scholarships): 939 / 932 (-7) / 912-967
Georgia Tech (three scholarships): 933 / 941 (+8) / 908-972
Clemson: 932 / 963 (+31) / 878-973
Maryland: 931 / 954 (+23) / 906-970

Big East (956)

Villanova: 985 / 977 (-8) / 974-1000
Butler: 977 / 1000 (+23) / 933-1000
Xavier: 975 / 970 (-5) / 965-985
Creighton: 965 / 969 (+4) / 956-980
Marquette: 957 / 970 (+13) / 918-980
Georgetown: 953 / 954 (+1) / 937-970
DePaul (one scholarship): 946 / 989 (+43) / 865-1000
St. John's: 937 / 956 (+19) / 884-968
Seton Hall: 935 / 950 (+15) / 918-963
Providence: 931 / 922 (-9) / 915-939

BIG TEN (951)

Michigan State: 976 / 982 (+6) / 949-1000
Illinois: 975 / 958 (-17) / 952-990
Northwestern: 974 / 985 (+11) / 935-1000
Penn State: 971 / 983 (+8) / 934-995
Michigan: 963 / 988 (+25) / 927-1000
Wisconsin: 951 / 972 (+21) / 926-980
Iowa: 946 / 946 (0) / 929-964
Nebraska: 940 / 942 (+2) / 925-971
Purdue (two scholarships): 935 / 981 (+46) / 894-995
Minnesota: 931 / 958 (+27) / 885-964
Ohio State (two scholarships): 931 / 962 (+31) / 902-972
Indiana (two scholarships, historical penalty): 917 / 960 (+43) / 866-1000

PAC-12 (942)

Stanford: 968 / 983 (+15) / 954-989
Washington: 956 / 981 (+25) / 878-990
Oregon: 954 / 926 (-28) / 918-986
UCLA: 953 / 947 (-6) / 915-968
Utah: 951 / 981 (+30) / 875-990
Arizona: 949 / 965 (+16) / 924-975
California: 945 / 951 (+6) / 921-967
Oregon State: 943 / 951 (+8) / 935-965
Washington State: 933 / 963 (+30) / 875-971
Arizona State: 929 / 967 (+38) / 840-973
Colorado (two scholarships, historical penalty): 912 / 957 (+45) / 872-984
USC (two scholarships, historical penalty): 906 / 943 (+37) / 842-960

BIG 12 (942)

Kansas: 988 / 1000 (+12) / 953-1000
Texas: 958 / 1000 (+42) / 861-1000
West Virginia: 956 / 983 (+27) / 899-995
Oklahoma State: 948 / 928 (-20) / 927-980
Texas Tech: 946 / 959 (+13) / 928-970
Baylor: 938 / 964 (+26) / 818-989
Oklahoma: 933 / 958 (+25) / 897-960
TCU: 932 / 943 (+11) / 912-948
Kansas State (historical penalty, one scholarship): 915 / 954 (+39) / 870-964
Iowa State (two scholarships): 903 / 943 (+40) / 852-949

SEC (939)

Vanderbilt: 977 / 975 (-2) / 971-985
Missouri: 964 / 976 (+12) / 939-979
Georgia: 955 / 965 (+10) / 940-990
Kentucky: 952 / 967 (+15) / 916-979
Alabama: 950 / 984 (+34) / 902-995
Florida: 948 / 979 (+31) / 903-989
Mississippi: 946 / 979 (+33) / 908-990
Tennessee (two scholarships): 935 / 961 (+26) / 910-973
South Carolina (two scholarships):  927 / 960 (+33) / 899-983
Mississippi State: 927 / 949 (+22) / 901-965
Texas A&M: 924 / 932 (+8) / 850-986
Arkansas (TWO historical penalties, one scholarship): 922 / 912 (-10) / 886-979
Auburn (historical penalty, two scholarships): 907 / 933 (+26) 862-940
LSU (one scholarship): 907 / 908 (+1) / 860-942

The American (933)

Memphis: 957 / 995 (+38) / 902-1000
SMU: 957 / 943 (-14) / 940-990
Rutgers: 953 / 956 (+3) / 933-968
Louisville: 951 / 975 (+24) / 908-995
Temple: 937 / 970 (+33) / 900-980
Central Florida: 927 / 926 (-1) / 916-932
Cincinnati: 917 / 968 (+51) / 838-992
South Florida: 916 / 946 (+30) / 878-953
UConn (two schollies, historical penalty, postseason ban): 915 / 893 (-22) / 889-946
Houston (historical penalty): 901 / 908 (+7) / 885-910

Only 19.3 percent of programs from major conferences have seen a negative tick in average APR in the past three seasons. Oregon (-28) and UConn (-22) are the two biggest drops. On the flip side, Cincinnati (+51), Purdue (+46) and Colorado (+45) have seen the greatest increase in average APR over the past three seasons.

The debate can continue on if this method of grade/graduation evaluation should be tweaked, but within its own margins, the proof is there. Schools are paying heed to the NCAA's warnings and on the majority improving away from the court.

CBS Sports Writer

Matt Norlander is a national award-winning senior writer who has been with CBS Sports since 2010. He's in his eighth season covering college basketball for CBS, and also covers the NBA Draft, the Olympics,... Full Bio

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