MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - According to the website Abbreviations.com, there are currently 5,694 acronyms related to sports terminology and jargon. In 2004, the NCAA added one more to our sports vernacular when it introduced the APR, or Academic Progress Rate.
So, what exactly is the APR and what does it mean?
It was born out of the Student-Right-to-Know-Act established by Congress in 1990, which included the mandatory publication of graduation rates. Initial graduation rates reported by many NCAA institutions were poor and unreliable, requiring the NCAA to develop a new methodology for evaluating the academic progress of its member institutions.
What came of this was the APR, a metric that takes into account the eligibility and retention of every student-athlete on a given team. Each player is assigned a point per semester for remaining academically eligible and additional points are added each semester if he or she graduates or remains in school.
It’s probably not quite as involved as determining a pitcher’s earned run average, but you get the general idea.
To more accurately reflect the trend of academic progress for a given institution it was determined that a four-year average score provided a better sample size. Institutions with an average four-year score less than 925 triggered sanctions such as scholarship reductions and postseason bans.
Six years ago, the minimum score was increased to 930.
That is the number all athletic programs strive to reach today.
And while the target to avoid sanctions is 930, the higher the score the better it is for your institution in the eyes of those evaluating college programs, including the parents of prospective student-athletes.
Having a higher than average APR score is more important than the common fan might realize. That’s why West Virginia’s overall APR score of 982 is a cause for celebration.
WVU director of athletics Shane Lyons explains.
“The important thing that comes out of those scores is our student-athletes are either graduating, or if they are transferring or if they’re leaving to play professionally, they are doing so in good academic standing,” he said. “Our athletes are performing at a high level and are sticking around, and you want that score to be as close to 1,000 (perfect score) as possible.”
Indeed, West Virginia University’s student-athletes are performing on and off the field like never before.
In early April, the most recent Directors’ Cup Standings were announced and West Virginia was at its highest position ever at this point of the season, ranked 26th and second behind Texas among Big 12 schools.
The Mountaineers got the most Directors’ Cup points from their national championship rifle team, NCAA runner-up women’s soccer team, NCAA Sweet 16 men’s basketball team and NCAA Tournament participating and nationally ranked women’s basketball team.
Not coincidentally, those four programs also happen to have perfect APR scores of 1,000 for the most current four-year period.
No, it’s not by accident and, yes, it’s remarkable for several reasons.
One, it demonstrates the quality of student-athletes the Mountaineers are now attracting to West Virginia University - dedicated, self-driven and committed students capable of performing at the highest level on and off the field.
Two, it illustrates West Virginia University’s commitment under Lyons to providing the best student-athlete support possible, be it athletically, academically, socially, medically or whatever. These things are sometimes taken for granted by the common fan, but are not taken for granted by moms and dads researching places to send their sons and daughters to go to college.
Three, West Virginia easily has the most burdensome travel schedule of any Power 5 Conference program in the country, the Mountaineers skipping a time zone every time they compete in a league event.
Sometimes, student-athletes are returning home from a road trip and going directly to a morning class, which requires amazing commitment and dedication on their part.
“They’re learning time management, organization, how to be a good team member - all things that translate into the real world,” Lyons noted.
And finally, West Virginia’s outstanding APR score squashes a long-standing (and erroneous) impression that West Virginia is just a sports factory only interested in recruiting the best athletes, but not necessarily always the best students.
That was how Bob Huggins was unfairly portrayed when he coached at Cincinnati, although those who painted him in that light failed to reveal the full story.
“When they said we had a zero graduation rate we recruited all juco players and juco players did not count then, one way or the other,” he pointed out. “If they graduated it didn’t count and if they didn’t graduate it didn’t count, so we had a zero graduation rate simply because there was no one to graduate.”
By the way, many of his former Bearcat players have since returned to earn their degrees, the most recent being DerMarr Johnson, who is now back in Cincinnati finishing up his coursework.
And incidentally, two of Huggins’ current Mountaineer players - Tarik Phillip
and Teyvon Myers
- graduated last weekend while Elijah Macon
and Brandon Watkins
are scheduled to graduate later this summer. His team has had the only perfect APR score in the Big 12 the last two years, is one of just 18 men’s basketball programs in America with a perfect APR score this year, one of only five to come from a Power 5 Conference and one of four to finish ranked in the final Top 25 Coaches’ Poll.
That runs contrary to the Bob Huggins narrative we were so used to reading.
“I’m not doing anything different than what I’ve always done,” Huggins said. “When my guys at Cincinnati didn’t go to class I ran them. I had them flipping tires - the same stuff I do here. By NCAA rules I can’t really be all that involved. I was told when I was at Cincinnati that I couldn’t have contact with their instructors. Well, how in the hell am I going to monitor my guys if I couldn’t have contact with their instructors?”
At West Virginia University, Huggins said his players have everything they need to be successful academically - tutors, a state-of-the-art study center and constant progress reports whenever they are falling behind academically.
“It’s a product of the University providing the necessary support,” Huggins said of his team’s perfect APR scores. “That’s what it is. Jerry (West) gave a million dollars to create an academic center with all of the resources for guys to come in and study and the University has hired very competent people to come in and provide tutorial support and guidance for our guys.
“It’s about our University and the way our University cares about not just our student-athletes, but also our students.”
That bears out in the academic performance numbers from this year. Twelve of the 17 athletic teams had a cumulative fall GPA greater than 3.0, 49 student-athletes finished the semester with a perfect 4.0 GPA, and of the roughly 500 student-athletes at West Virginia University, the overall department GPA was 3.12.
In the spring, the department’s overall GPA inched up to an astounding 3.15, with 13 of the 17 teams earning a 3.0 or better and 59 student-athletes achieving a 4.0 grade point average.
When you pair this with West Virginia’s amazing performance on the playing field - the nationally ranked teams, the championships, the individual medals, titles and awards our incredibly gifted student-athletes are earning, it removes all of the buts from the conversation about West Virginia University.
Yes, West Virginia is performing, but … Yes, the Mountaineers are successful, but … Yes, but …
No. No buts this time.
“I give our academic staff and our coaches a lot of credit,” Lyons noted. “Our focus as a department is emphasizing the student-athlete here at West Virginia and that’s very, very important to us.
“It starts with the recruiting process and for the parents, viewing it through their son’s or daughter’s perspective: Are they going to be taken care of? And taken care of means a lot of different things, athletically, academically, socially, medically and so forth,” Lyons said.
“What our APR score is telling parents is we ARE serious as an institution about the academic success of our student-athletes; we want them to stay here, and we’re going to do everything we can to make sure while they are here that they remain eligible.”
Indeed, there are no more buts about what West Virginia University athletics is accomplishing. It’s a department well-rounded and well maintained - something of which all West Virginians can be very proud.