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Post Positive academic progress news for Dawgs

Thursday May 3, 2007

The good news from the latest APR numbers is that none of Georgia’s programs are facing penalties right now. In fact, the key sports of football and men’s and women’s basketball made "appreciable increases." The football team has the second-best rating in the SEC behind Auburn. Given Auburn’s suspect academic practices, their presence at the top of the conference rankings does nothing but mock the APR.

At any rate, kudos to Evans, Richt, and Felton for taking care of the school’s highest-profile programs. We’ve focused on and debated Felton’s progress on the court, but he’s also made big strides in restoring a culture of academic success for Georgia basketball. Bulldog basketball increased its APR score by 106 points in one year.

Two Georgia programs, baseball and men’s track, face possible penalties next year if their APR does not improve, but they were close enough to the threshold of 925 points to avoid jeopardy this year.

It makes sense to me that baseball is one of the marginal sports, and that has little to do with Georgia’s management of the program and more to do with how college baseball works. As the ABH says, "Baseball coach David Perno said he was shocked his team’s APR score wasn’t lower because the NCAA limits the sport to 11.7 scholarships and has a culture of transfers." Me too.

That’s not a misprint: basketball teams get more scholarships than baseball teams. Baseball teams must divide up those 11.7 scholarships among 30+ players, and the portions aren’t equal. Where a full scholarship in another sport over four or five years lends itself to academic progress and a degree, these partial scholarships in baseball can lead student-athletes to seek out better deals and hop from school to school. Because of the scholarship issue, starting off at a junior college is a popular option for baseball players even for those who qualify academically and have Division 1 offers.

Unlike student-athletes in other sports, baseball players currently don’t have to sit out a year as they play this transfer game. But big changes are coming to college baseball. According to the ABH,

  • Baseball transfers must sit out a year starting in 2008-2009.
  • A maximum of 27 people can share in the 11.7 available scholarships, and the minimum share is 33% of a scholarship.
  • A baseball team can carry no more than 35 players.
  • "Baseball teams with four-year APRs of less than 900 will be required to cut their season by 10 percent."
  • Academic eligibility will be determined at the start of the fall semester rather than at the start of the season. A tactic used now is to take a heavy load during fall semester in order to become eligible for the season. No more.

My uneducated guess is that an effect of these rules will be to make junior college ball an even more popular option. D-1 scholarships will become more scarce. Teams will only be able to carry a small amount of walk-ons. Transfer rules won’t apply to JUCO baseball players just as they don’t apply to football or basketball players. The changes will possibly make college teams a bit more stable and lead to better academic progress, and coaches won’t have the "sign as many as you can and see who sticks" method available to them in recruiting.

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