The APR: Academic Progress or A Great PR Scam?

By Craig R. Turner

Published: June 13, 2013

After a lot of thought and debate, I have come to some answers in my own mind when it comes to the APR. It may be a good idea in theory but it sucks in actual administration, equity in its application and its intended affect

I have concluded that much of this APR commotion is nothing more than carnival shell game devised by the NCAA to protect their large athletic name brand schools (the Golden Geese) that make all of their TV money and to snow a gullible national press into convincing fans that the NCAA is actually concerned about athletes graduating from college. Sure they do. Let me know how that works out for ya.

Universities routinely recruit student athletes who barely get by with a passing ACT score and questionable high school work, while in the same schools mean time keeping three or four slots open for “preferred walk-ons”. They recruit them not to give them a hand up so they can better themselves but to win football and basketball games and flood their coffers with millions of TV dollars. Big time college sports are about major revenue. If you actually believe otherwise, then you are dumber than you look.

For instance in the case of UNC, a “junior varsity” basketball squad in place and they play prep schools to appear legit. Those guys are all 3.5 to 4.0 egg heads who keep the real UNC team graduation rates fairly high and their APR scores consistently well above the 900 mark.

So if you’re ole Roy you always keep this golden parachute in your hip pocket for those 2 or three guys that leave early whether its the NBA, transfers leaving for some place else, or just plain screw up. They are always offsetting the losses with the designated academic benchwarmers who gladly sit on the bench to wear the uniform so they can say “I play for UNC” even though they might played a total of 15 minutes during a 35 plus game season for four years.

Dean Smith recognize the warning sign and started using the old JV system decades ago when integration first hit the ACC and it worked well for over half a century. Former Football Butch Davis was not clever enough to follow the blueprint and decided he could short cut the short cut and it finally hit the fan with the fraudulent grade tampering. Once again, big bucks found a way out for UNC despite a very public mess.

Now at places like Duke, Stanford, Northwestern for example, they liberally use the “designated majors” strategy for their student athletes such as Sociology (Duke), Sports Management (Stanford) and Human Resource Development (Northwestern), all considered the hallmarks of “academic integrity.” In addition, yes they all admit exceptions for top athletes, which are usually, well below the university standards for admission for the rest of general student body.

This is an all too common practice among all of the major BCS schools in their major sports for both men and women. Its not rocket science in design but it does take big money to execute it properly.

Therefore, when I hear the term “resource poor institutions” it signals to me these schools are not bad academically, far from it. They simply did not monitor academic progression, as they should and lost control at their institutions taking short cuts with their student athletes recruiting too many marginal students, using an overabundance of junior college transfers and not providing adequate tutoring and study support.

I feel completely indifferent when I see a school like Alabama State put up a $56 million investment into building a new football stadium that rivals even a few NFL venues but did not see fit to put a dime toward improving their retention and graduation rate. Talk about putting the cart before the horse. No question all HBCUs and FCS members in general must improve their treatment of athletes and put the chief emphasis on graduating kids rather than building 50 million dollar stadiums.

So now, the NCAA creates a sub category of systematic “waivers’ to appease the presidents, the press and the public opinion. The NCAA knows that their system is unintentionally unfair and tilted toward schools with millions of dollars in the athletic endowments so let’s even up the playing field by pretending we understand the plight of the “poor” HBCUs.

Keep in mind the NCAA will always protect its image first and always leave a way out for their “cash cows” to circumvent the rules and keep the viewer ratings alive and well.

So I’ll tell you what. We’ll be stern with N.C. A&T – put them on a five-year hiatus and penalize their new coaching staff and the new players for the actions of coaches and administrators who were fired years ago by stripping them of current practice time, scholarships, and postseason play opportunities and expect them to correct their plight in a vacuum.

Now that will show how everyone tough we are – you betcha!

But wait we’ll need to protect our own so let UNC go ahead make up pretend courses, falsify grades, forge everyone’s test scores, pay players, and even allow agents to buy them cars and apartments and then allow the administration to later claim complete ignorance of everything that happened in our “exhaustive investigation.” Lord knows we can’t let a potential $100 million in sales and merchandising simply slip through our grubby little fingers. To paraphrase one of my favorite comedic directors and writers Mel Brooks, “You know this means? We must protect our phony baloney jobs at all costs gentlemen.”

The hypocrisy of the NCAA knows no bounds.

If colleges were to truly, put students’ academics ahead of the TV dollar the landscape of college athletics would be remarkably different from what is now. No one would be waiting with baited breath to see Butler battle East Tennessee State in a March Madness finale.

There would be many empty sports bars on that Monday night in mid January for the national football championship game when powerhouse Fresno State tangles with Utah. You can bet there will tickets available for that one.

Nothing more embarrassing than having your pants pulled down in public by a total stranger while going commando on the down low. Pull the bed spread back sometimes and you will be surprised to see what is actually lying beneath those sheets.