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Post APR numbers and penalties not surprising

Tuesday May 6, 2008

First, let’s get the good news out of the way. Georgia came out just fine in the APR numbers released on Tuesday. In fact, it was better than good: Georgia was among the SEC’s top three in football and men’s and women’s basketball. The football team led the SEC. Bottom line is that none of Georgia’s programs face sanctions, and it looks as if all programs have student-athletes making satisfactory progress towards graduation. Cool.

Now on to the SEC. All SEC football programs met the minimum APR requirements. Tennessee and South Carolina however did not meet requirements in men’s basketball, and it cost each a single scholarship for one season.

Nationwide, 17 Division I-A football programs will be penalized. Only two of those schools – Kansas and Washington State – were from BCS conferences. It makes sense when you think about it. Schools in conferences outside the BCS:

  • Are often lower-quality colleges to begin with. Directional State is typically not going to be your state’s flagship of higher learning.
  • Have to take risks in order to compete. A weaker program can get better in a hurry by taking a chance on an academic or character risk that the big boys can afford to pass over. If you’re taking more risks on marginal students, chances are it will come back to bite your APR score. I wonder if this point affected Kansas’ place among the penalized. Historically a weak program, Coach Mangino might have had to take some academic risks in order to raise the competitiveness of his team.
  • Have less money to throw at academic resources. The $2.2 million Georgia spent at the Sugar Bowl could just about fund some smaller football programs. The large, typically public, schools that make up the BCS conferences invest quite a bit in keeping student-athletes eligible, and they would have the flexibility to do what it takes to raise dangerously low APRs. Huge well-organized tutoring programs, computers, dedicated facilities…these are all luxuries when most athletic departments struggle to break even.

Given those built-in disadvantages, it’s no shock that though the BCS conferences have over half of the Football Bowl Subdivision membership, they get a disproportionately low share of the APR penalties. The news isn’t much better on the basketball side of things. There are an awful lot of HBCUs on the list of penalized schools.

If further study determines that the APR does in fact make things much tougher for the little guy than for State U., don’t expect those schools to stay quiet about it for very long. And, just damn, hasn’t Temple suffered enough already?

UPDATE: That didn’t take long. San Jose State coach Dick Tomey was one of the first to beat the drum:

“There’s such a difference between the B.C.S. schools and those who are not,” Tomey said. “I don’t think it’s an intended difference, but it highlights financial things like not being able to throw money at the problem and solve it very quickly.”

WAC commissioner Karl Benson also spoke up for the non-BCS conferences.

“When the A.P.R. first was introduced, I think all of our schools took it to heart and put in plans to face it and to fight it,” said Karl Benson, the commissioner of the Western Athletic Conference. “But I know that we may not have had the same resources that others have had.”

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