Every year since the 2004-05 academic year the Gamecocks’ football or men’s basketball teams — or both — faced some type of sanction, including a post-season ban, due to poor academic performance.
But when the NCAA released the APR scores for all its member institutions Tuesday, 13 of JSU’s 16 sports were above the 925 benchmark four-year score and none were facing sanction or penalty.
“To be honest, that’s the first step — to get all our teams where they don’t have any penalties,” acting JSU athletics director Greg Seitz said. “Then hopefully improve their APR numbers each year and get those lower scores up to the 925 and higher.
“Considering two years ago we had the football ban and other men’s scholarship reductions, you can see how far we’ve come.”
The APR provides a real-time look at a team’s academic success by tracking the academic progress of each student-athlete. It includes eligibility and retention in the calculation and provides what the NCAA calls a clear picture of the academic culture in each sport.
This year’s multi-year score includes data from the academic years of 2006-07, 2007-08, 2008-09 and 2009-10.
Teams scoring below 925 on their four-year rate and have a player leave school academically ineligible can lose up to 10 percent of their scholarships. Teams can also face historically based penalties for poor academic performance over time.
The JSU football team faced a postseason ban in 2009 for three straight years of missing their academic benchmark.
Men’s basketball (865), men’s cross country (911) and rifle (918) were the only JSU programs that failed to meet the 925 minimum multi-year score. Rifle (821), men’s cross country (850) and women’s golf (923) missed the single-year benchmark.
The football program hit the four-year mark at 925.
The men’s basketball program was among 10 teams facing a postseason ban this year, but was one of three (along with UAB football and Colorado State basketball) to receive a full conditional waiver.
Waivers can be granted for improvement, a demonstrated allocation of resources to academics or active presidential involvement, among others. All waivers are conditioned upon meeting certain APR benchmarks and implementation of an APR improvement plan.
JSU has ramped up its commitment to academic success for all its sports in the wake of the football ban.
University president Bill Meehan told each of the four athletic director candidates who interviewed for that vacancy over the last 10 days he expects the Gamecocks’ future APR to be closer to the 950 threshold than the 925.
The JSU men’s basketball program was spared the postseason ban because it has been battling back from a woefully low start that has been mathematically impossible to meet the terms of the historical penalties.
The program posted a single-year score of 974 this year and has improved every year of head coach James Green’s tenure.
Green deferred all comments to the school’s administration.
“The 974 tells me our academic improvement plan is working with Coach Green,” Seitz said. “The front end of the last four years the number is low; once that number goes off, his APR is going to be fine. That’s the reason we got that full conditional waiver.
“We would take a 974, honestly, every year. It’s a slow process. We went through it with football and now you see our four-year score there is 925. We’re definitely making strides. It ‘s just men’s basketball on the front end had so far to come. You’ve got to cycle off that low score, so you hope to have another high number to replace it.”
The Gamecocks did have six programs with perfect 1,000 APR scores for 2009-10 — men’s and women’s tennis, women’s cross country, softball, soccer and volleyball. Women’s tennis was the school’s multi-year leader (992), followed closely by volleyball (988)
Within the Ohio Valley Conference, league programs combined for a 964 multi-year APR score, which officials said was down slightly from last year’s score (966), but remained steady with the improvement it has shown overall since 2005-06.
The league also held steady in terms of eligibility trends, remaining at 965 for the second year in a row, which is tied for the highest score the league has had over the past five years.
Al Muskewitz covers Jacksonville State sports for The Star. He can be reached at 256-235-3577.