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The Patriot League and the Latest Academic Progress Rate Numbers

It's never news that Patriot League teams receive awards about their Academic Progress Rate from the NCAA.

Since instituting the measure in 2005 to track athletes' progress in reaching graduation, Patriot League schools have consistently, alongside the Ivy League, been honored for the number of teams that have scored a 977 or above. (Broadly, it means that 97.7% of the the team has made academic progress towards their degree.)

That Patriot League schools are consistently at the top or near the top of their institutional peers in APR rates is not news. Buried in the numbers, however, are two items that should not be ignored - a subtle change that has robbed the Patriot League of some national recognition, and a case for football scholarships that you might have missed. (more)

First, though, let's look at the overall APR numbers.

The NCAA chose 909 squads for special APR awards. Of those squads, 73 of them were Patriot League squads (as well as nine more sports from Patriot League institutions that aren't sponsored by the Patriot League, such as Colgate Men's Ice Hockey).

For those of you without a calculator, that's 8% of ALL the teams recognized (and 9% if you count the sports not sponsored by the Patriot League.

On the Lehigh side, there were ten squads honored for their high scores: Baseball, Field Hockey, Men's Basketball, Women's Basketball, Women's Cross Country, Women's Lacrosse, Women's Rowing, Women's Swimming and Diving, Women's Tennis, and Women's Volleyball.

You may have noticed that Lehigh's football team was not on that list (their multi-year APR in 2010 was 971, still outstanding). In years past, at least two Patriot League teams were honored every single year for their APR scores. This year, curiously, there were none. What gives?

Here's the multi-year APR of every school in the Patriot League:

Bucknell: 976
Colgate: 978
Holy Cross: 974
Fordham: 975
Georgetown: 979
Lafayette: 978
Lehigh: 971

All outstanding scores. But it's the first year since the APR was instituted that a Patriot League school didn't make the list. In fact, three made the list last year - including Colgate, with a 981, and Holy Cross, with a 978.

Why didn't any members of the Patriot League, with basically the same scores, qualify for awards?

For that, you can blame the NCAA for a change to their award structure.

For the first time this year, the APR awards were separated in football: one set for Bowl Subdivision schools, and one set for Championship Subdivision schools.

In prior years, recognition awards went to the top ten percent of APR schools in all of division I. Now, it's grouped by subdivision.

So now Miami (FL) and Middle Tennessee State - with multi-year APR scores of 979 - qualify for awards, while Georgetown, with an identical score, does not.

It may seem like a small thing to separate FCS and FBS Academic Progress awards.

But what it really does is unnecessarily boost the academic profile of certain FBS schools at the expense of FCS schools. (One of those schools is Ohio State, whose football program will almost certainly be put on probation when it became clear that head coach Jim Tressel appears to have lied to NCAA investigators.)

It's common knowledge that there are many more FCS schools with high APR rates than FBS schools. Last year, 18 of the 26 award recipients were FCS schools, including the three Patriot League schools, William & Mary, Richmond, Villanova, and Northeastern (who disbanded their football program after the season).

But it appears FCS and the Patriot League's moment in the sun will be eclipsed by the NCAA's apparent efforts to boost the academic credibility of FBS football.

Even if Georgetown should absolutely be on the list.


There's another very interesting piece of information as well - that bolsters the argument for football scholarships in the Patriot League.

In 2009, Fordham announced that it was going to start to offer merit-based aid in football - or, in other words, football scholarships as they're understood in the rest of FCS.

In the Patriot League, scholarship aid is needs-tested, so football players have to fill out financial aid forms like everyone else.

The APR numbers show, from an academic perspective, the effect on scholarships on the ability of Fordham to attract scholar-athletes that are a good academic match for the institution.

And those numbers speak volumes.

Before merit-based aid:

Football Fordham University NY 2004 - 2005 949
Football Fordham University NY 2005 - 2006 942
Football Fordham University NY 2006 - 2007 942
Football Fordham University NY 2007 - 2008 949

After merit-based aid:

Football Fordham University NY 2008 - 2009 960
Football Fordham University NY 2009 - 2010 975

A 26 point jump in Fordham's multi-year APR number.

So much for the "argument" that football scholarships will make Fordham attract unqualified students on their football team. These compelling numbers blow that myth right out of the water. They've improved retention by more than two percentage points.

Could it be any more clear that football scholarships would allow Patriot League schools to get even more academically qualified students to come to their schools - and retain them?

Who knows - maybe with football scholarships, the League might be able to get around the NCAA's own efforts to take credit away from FCS football programs and get back to getting APR awards once again.


ngineer said…
Those Fordham numbers are significant. Hopefully, the academicians can understand that being able to recruit with scholarships can actually strengthen the academic standing of our teams if done in the right way.

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