Arkansas' APR Scores Looking Strong

All 19 Arkansas' sports programs are above the APR benchmark of 930 with three perfect scores and an overall average of 970.4 according to numbers released Wednesday by the NCAA.

For the second straight year, all 19 Arkansas athletic programs were not only above the NCAA APR benchmark score of 930, but at least five points clear.

The new Academic Progress Rate scores released by the NCAA on Wednesday afternoon had Arkansas' overall average at 970.4 – which means that the Razorbacks' overall average was above 970 for the third straight year.

There were three perfect squads with the men's and women's golf and the volleyball team positing of 1,000 while gymnastics (995), swimming and diving (995) and men's tennis (994) all with lofty point totals as well.

"For the second consecutive year, all 19 of our sport programs exceed the APR benchmark and have student-athletes on the path to earning their degrees," Vice Chancellor and Director of Athletics Jeff Long said in a release. "I'm proud of our coaches, our student-athlete success staff and most importantly our student-athletes for their dedication to academic achievement.

"We have made remarkable progress, but still have work to do," Long added. "We will remain steadfast in our efforts to help guide Razorback student-athletes toward graduation and fulfilling our mission of developing student-athletes to their fullest potential through intercollegiate athletics."

The APR is a team-based metric that accounts for the eligibility and retention of each student athlete in each term.

The NCAA set a standard beginning with the 2012-2013 championships that teams must earn a 900 four-year RPI or 930 average over two years to participate in the championships.

In 2015-16 and beyond, teams will have to earn a four-year average of 930 to compete in championships.

The Arkansas' men's basketball program continued its push forward from a yearly low score of 755 in the 2007-2008 academic year and 886 overall mark (and a resulting scholarship loss two years go) to a 935 overall mark – an improvement of 51 points over the last four years.

The single-year hoop score was down from 951 to 902 for the 2012-2013 –reportedly due to basketball players B.J. Young and Marshawn Powell both leaving the program before the semester was over.

That will be offset next year when the Razorback basketball APR single and cumulative scores will soar with the addition of six 2014 graduates being added to the rolling four-year scores, which are used to tabulate the score.

The improvements are tied to a change in the basketball academic culture under head coach Mike Anderson according to Jon Fagg, the Senior Associate Athletic Director for Compliance and Senior Associate Athletic Director for Administration and Governance.

"It's really hard to describe how much better we feel about it," Fagg said. "Coach Anderson really does a great job of setting an entire culture for his team. On the court, off the court. Just being responsible generally. If you think about it, we haven't' had off-the-court issues.

"We're doing well — again, in a big picture with APR — we're doing better in my opinion, I'm the sport administrator, we're better on the court," Fagg sad. "We're tracking the right way. "

Fagg notes he hears Anderson vocally stressing academics.

"Coach Anderson, I hear it on a daily basis," Fagg said, "He's telling the kids when we come back in at 1 o'clock in the morning from a road trip, he's telling them, 'You're going to school, you've got a class in the morning. You're getting up, there will be class checkers. There will be people paying attention to you,' and he expects them to do it. If they miss a class, they're getting in trouble, if they're not taking care of their business."

The football program's single-year score was 935 in 2012-2013 while its overall four-year APR score is 944.

That's with three different head coaches in three years and players leaving the program because of the coaching shuffle.

Fagg noted that Razorback football coach Bret Bielema is also stressing academics.

"I think given all that we've been through the last couple of years, we feel fantastic about the score," Fagg said. "Coach Bielema sets a similar culture to Coach Anderson. Kids are expected to go to school, expected to take academics seriously. Given what we've been through, I think we're tracking fine. We are not worried about being below 930."

The only really low yearly score at Arkansas was an 894 for Indoor Track, which still had a 945 four-year average.

"Track is odd because the sports, cross country and indoor and outdoor intermingle," Fagg said. "…We had a low number indoors, but we don't have any worry they're going to drop below 930."

Fagg noted that while coaches across the country were not big on the APR at first, they have clearly come to grips with it as they have learned more about it.

"The thing that APR does for us is force our coaches and our administration to talk about academics in a real-time measurable way," Fagg said. "That's what I love about it. I get frustrated about certain pieces of APR, but we really do speak very specifically about points that are being lost, why they're being lost, who they are, and we discuss that with our coaches. And what does that mean for your program in an academic setting just like we talk about wins and losses in an academic setting. We do that all the time."

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