Gophers’ scores make the grade

No Gophers sports teams will face penalties for their academic performance, according to the NCAA’s Academic Progress Rate report released Tuesday.

The Gophers men’s basketball team was the only University team with an APR score lower than 925, the threshold for penalties. However, the team won’t face penalties because no academically ineligible student-athletes left the program.

The football team finished with a score of 927, just 2 points above the penalty limit.

Both the men’s basketball and football teams had scores below 925 last year, but didn’t face penalties because of “squad size adjustments.”

Last week, the women’s cross country, tennis, indoor track and outdoor track teams received public recognition for their scores.

Overall, the University’s teams fielded an average score of 970.67, an improvement from last year’s 969.08. That score is nearly 10 points higher than the NCAA Division I average.

The latest numbers display the success of initiatives to support student-athlete academic achievement, Athletics Director Joel Maturi said.

View the full NCAA report here (PDF).

“The fact of the matter is that we haven’t been as successful as we want,” he said, adding that the Gophers would like to be a model academic program in the future.

The APR highlights academic progress for the past four school years, and teams with poor scores can lose scholarships and practice time.

The score takes into account eligibility, retention and graduation rates of student-athletes at member institutions.

Although the University avoided penalties, APR standards aren’t very high, Doug Hartmann, associate sociology professor, said.

Hartmann, who sits on the Faculty Athletic Oversight Committee on Intercollegiate Athletics, said the University should strive to outdo APR benchmarks.

“A good goal would be to be amongst our other peer institutions in the Big Ten,” he said. “I think that’d be a little more of a standard.”

However, the progress reports and the penalties they spur have helped give the NCAA’s academic reforms “some teeth,” Hartmann said.

And those reports have mostly achieved the goal of improving academics, NCAA officials say.

Citing the current Division I average’s improvement from the 2003-04 school year, specifically in football and baseball, NCAA President Myles Brand said the new numbers are a good sign.

“There are genuine signs of measurable improvement,” he said.

The Division I football average has increased 11 points in the four-year history of the progress reports, according to data. The University’s football team’s score has risen nine points since the 2004-05 school year.

Despite the improvement, Brand said this year’s data shows a continuing “problem area” in men’s basketball, and the Basketball Academic Enhancement Group is addressing that issue.

The group is expected to provide the NCAA’s Division I Board of Directors a list of problems and possible solutions to improve men’s basketball academics in the fall, he said.

Starting with next year’s APRs, teams not meeting standards with a past history of not doing so may face penalties, including a possible post-season play ban.