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OSU’s Graduation Problem

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Yesterday, in the morning links, I introduced this idea (via David Ubben) that Mike Gundy was the worst “graduater” of all Big 12 coaches. This is kind of true, as his team’s APR score last year was the lowest of any football team in the league, but kind of not.

Does Travis Ford have a graduation problem?

To simplify: this “APR” acronym I keep mentioning is referring to a team’s ability to retain and graduate its players. I won’t get into the somewhat hairy math but basically if all your players transfer and make terrible grades you’re going to have a poor APR score. Each sport’s score is separate from all other sports at a given school.

What strikes me from an Oklahoma State standpoint is not the football team’s score last year of 913 (which ranks in the 40th percentile) because true APR is calculated on a rolling four-year average. So while the squad scored poorly last year their four-year average is actually 942 which is well above the NCAA threshold of 925.

Seems like the perfect time to give another explanation. If you drop below 925 you start losing athletic scholarships. If you drop below 900 you start incurring other (bigger) problems. Grambling State’s basketball team fell to 873 this year and will be banned from postseason play next season.

So as you can see, the 913 Gundy put up last year isn’t good, but the four-year rolling average of 942 is acceptable, solid even. For comparison’s sake Duke’s basketball score is 990 and Florida’s football score is 976.

Now let me to get to what worries me. Arbitrary as these numbers may seem, the 925 figure is a real, legitimate concern in terms of a program’s success. UConn hoops crossed it recently and lost two scholarships for next year. Not something you necessarily want to do when fighting for a spot atop the conference standings. And on that note, let me present to you the last four years of rolling OSU basketball scores:

2007: 957
2008: 967
2009: 934
2010: 927

So, yeah, that’s probably not the best trend. Before 2009 the NCAA didn’t release individual year scores but the last two have been 875 and 895 respectively for Ford’s team. Two more years of that and you’re in some legitimate trouble.

I have questions. Like: isn’t this why we have walk-ons?! Who cares if you can ball, go post a 4.0 and get us out of this mess. Nolo, where were you at when all of this was going on? I’m also not sure how the Shaw, Penn, and Franklin transfers are going to affect next year’s scores because the NCAA states that if an athlete leaves school to go to another one “with a sufficiently high GPA” there is no penalty levied.

With only 10 guys on the team so far next year it’s a great opportunity for Ford to load up on pimple-faced engineers that Le’Bryan can dunk on next year, but who will also get this trend turned in a different direction. Just go over to the Colvin, Travis, if they can dribble and walk at the same time ask for their transcript and go from there. It shouldn’t be that hard.

In all seriousness though, this really speaks to the difficulty of coaching in today’s college world. Not only do you have to balance minutes and shots and egos and time, but now you have to worry about seemingly auxiliary things like: “which shoe company attracts the most recruits?” and “are these guys staying eligible so my team doesn’t lose scholarships?” and “how can I get this guy on the USA team, and this guy to lose 10 lbs., and this guy to shoot 1000 J’s a day during the summer?”

It never ends and Travis Ford is the envy of no one. The brunt of many people’s vitriol, sure, but the envy of no one.