APR Report Shows Some Good News For Baseball

The NCAA released its Academic Progress Report this afternoon, and six baseball programs had scores low enough to merit the maximum scholarship penalty of losing 10 percent of their scholarships. For a complete list of the programs penalized, go here.

The six programs that will be limited to 10 rather than 11.7 scholarships starting next year are Fresno State, New Mexico, Temple, Texas-Arlington, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi and Texas Tech. Several other schools have to cough up more than one scholarship, including Oral Roberts (1.06), Lipscomb (1.10) and Florida International (1.12). In all, 27 schools either saw scholarships reduced (20 in all, some by as little as .05 scholarships) or were publicly reprimanded (seven).

As expected, baseball didn’t perform well compared to other sports. Only football, with 47 programs scoring below the 925 cutoff (on a 0-1,000 scale), was worse than baseball’s 46 programs when squad-size adjustments were made. And baseball had more teams (20) that scored below 900 than any other sport–including football–with Texas Tech scoring the lowest at 839. Baseball’s three-year average as a whole was 934, just edging football (931) and basketball (927) but still ranking third-worst among all sports.

However, the news was better for baseball than expected. The sport made progress, as last year 10 programs, including Texas, were penalized the full 1.17 scholarships, and 71 schools fell below the cut line, compared to 27 this year. Also, last year’s baseball-wide average was 931, and that score was 922 in 2005.

So baseball has shown modest progress. The sport presents challenges unique among college sports, from the baseball draft to summer leagues, that the NCAA has failed to recognize or appreciate when meting out APR penalties. But on its own, college baseball has improved in this measure of academic progress–which shouldn’t be the only measure (coaches point out that baseball teams regularly score highly when ranked by GPA, rather than graduation rates).

But APR is the measure that counts these days, and it’s the measure that’s changing the sport as Aaron Fitt wrote Monday in Strike Two. As Mississippi State coach Ron Polk said Tuesday, “We would solve the APR problem ourselves if given the time. If the NCAA would have given us a couple of years, we would have fixed it ourselves.”

The data shows the dramatic improvement Polk talks about. But the NCAA did not wait. Still, NCAA president Myles Brand singled out baseball’s improvement in his official statement on the APR news.

“We have realized improvement in some of the areas that needed it,” Brand said in an official statement. “Football is up’"that’™s good. Perhaps the most pleasant surprise, though, is in baseball, which is up significantly. It’™s not perfect’"we’™re still not where we want to be in men’™s basketball. We have a lot of work to do there and it’™s going to be a challenge.”