Perhaps deceased former NCAA president Myles Brand's greatest legacy -- at least outside the state of Indiana -- is the Academic Progress Rates (APRs) program. The rates are a measure, devised by the NCAA, to track whether programs and coaches are ensuring their players finish the maximum available credits in their paths to graduation. Coaches that do well score in the 1,000s, while coaches who do poorly hover down in the 800-900 territory.
Most college hoops fans are vaguely familiar with the APR. The same would seem to go for prospective athletes and their families. But neither group -- most important of which is recruits -- probably knows all that much about which schools measure well and which schools slack off. There's no real go-to for this information, at least not on the Internet.
Which is why starting Thursday, the NCAA will be launching an online database "accessible to recruits, their parents, prospective employers and others who might value the information," according to USA Today. Um, that would be me. I value the information! Hey, NCAA -- can I get my online database password, too? (I'm a little afraid to admit it, but I would probably spend way too much time playing around with that stuff.)
Of course, coaches have never been fans of the APR in general, even when the NCAA wasn't trying to publicize the information to recruits. It's safe to say most coaches won't like this idea, either. The arguments are usually the same: That they're punished (or rewarded) for something they have little control over.
For example, Syracuse's Jim Boeheim, who has averaged an APR of 912 over the past four years and was docked two scholarships for the crime, told our own Dana O'Neil in June that he had little control over the scores attributable to three seniors leaving for NBA workouts before finishing their senior-year coursework. That cost Boeheim a handful of eligibility points -- the backbone of the APR's scores -- and made Boeheim forfeit two scholarships he says he would have given as rewards to walk-ons.
Even Herb Sendek, whose APR has looked pretty spiffy, told USA Today he has issues with coaches taking all the heat:
"As much as you'd like to attribute it all to a coach because that makes it simpler and easier for everybody to digest," Arizona State basketball coach Herb Sendek says, "the truth of the matter is there are many variables beyond the coach's control and there are many individuals responsible for the outcome in addition to the coach."
At the same time, Sendek doesn't believe what the NCAA believes -- that publishing the APR scores are going to affect recruiting one way or the other:
Says Sendek: "I think it'll be a consideration … but I don't think it becomes the ace in the deck. I don't think it will drive those decisions, ultimately."
Sendek's probably right. Maybe some recruits are interested in finding out how many of a coach's former players completed a maximum of eligibility points ... but most will just want to know how much playing time they're going to get right away. Some will want to see the athlete dorms. Public APR isn't going to change recruiting as we know it.
Still, though, it's a positive step. If athletes and families want this information, they should have it. If prospective employers want to take a look, it's there. More than anything, that step ought to help keep coaches respectful of the APR. It's not a perfect metric, and it has some unintended consequences, but it's by and large a step in the right direction. The more coaches who take it seriously, the better.