The Next Tempest: APR

The Next Tempest: APR

Submitted by Brian on March 2nd, 2010 at 12:42 PM

They're back.

apr-books apr-birds

There is no official word about it yet, but both premium sites have started with the grumbles about the upcoming APR report. As demanded by math, Michigan won't fare well. This here site has been fretting about the APR numbers since at least May of last year when the 2008 numbers came out:

I am a bit concerned Michigan's football numbers will dip over the next few years. The four-year rolling numbers:

That's a steady decline as the Carr years waned and attrition increased. The APR issues two points per student per year, one for being academically eligible and one for not leaving, and Michigan's suffered a lot of premature departures.

Note that I didn't have that quite right. The APR issues two points per term:

What is the APR?
The Academic Progress Rate is an NCAA measure to track the academic achievement of Division I teams during each academic term. Each student-athlete earns one point for staying in school and one point for being academically eligible. A team’s total points are divided by points possible and multiplied by 1,000 to equal the team’s APR score. Teams that fall below the minimum APR score of 925 face possible sanctions ranging from scholarship reductions to more severe penalties.

Also, early pro departures who leave in good standing don't hurt you. If they leave ineligible, that's 0-for-2.

In late July, I tried to put some hard numbers on the departures and came up with improbably positive results: even after somewhere between twelve and fifteen players left the team in 2009 I came up with a worst-case number of 941, which is considerably above the NCAA minimum of 925. After some consideration, I think my error was in overestimating the number of available points. Michigan's latest APR report shows an N of 241. If Michigan was using every last scholarship every semester—or, rather, if the NCAA was counting every last scholarship—that N would be 260. If you assume that only 93% of the points are available in an average year, the 941 estimate drops to 937. Since Michigan has spent the last two years really short that is a conservative estimate.

Since then Michigan has lost Justin Feagin, Marell Evans, Vince Helmuth, Boubacar Cissoko, and Brandon Smith, but it's unclear where those guys will count. Smith and Cissoko will clearly apply to 2010 numbers, but Feagin, Evans, and Helmuth all left over the summer and it's not clear which year their departures will be charged to. Feagin played at Texas Southern this year and therefore must have left eligible. Evans was a member of Hampton's latest recruiting class*, which makes me think he stayed at Michigan for at least a semester. If he'd transferred immediately he would have played, like Feagin did. (He's still in the directory, but I'm still in the directory. This is not conclusive.) Vince Helmuth transferred to Miami (Not That Miami). Since that's a D-I school he has to sit out a year eligible or not, but IIRC Helmuth was a good student in high school and Miami is not a common destination for the academically challenged.

Departures after the July 22 post should cost Michigan two more APR points if they count against '09 at all. That brings them down to 930 using the same system my rough, still-optimistic math above suggests. My guess is Michigan's APR this year is below 925.


But will they fall under the mark when all four years are averaged? Probably not. Since the first APR reports on the NCAA's site cover shorter periods of time we can figure out Michigan's yearly APR and find the ones that will figure in this year's calculation.

Chart? Chart.


The last three scores are 970, 930, and 933. The premium grumbles give me pause—does anyone care enough to mention it  if Michigan's four-year APR drops to 935?—but Michigan would have to drop an 867 this year to be subject to penalties. That 970 is a big buffer.

It's a buffer that will go away next year, though, and Michigan will have to resume its usual practice of not flailing around with 67 scholarship kids because of a zillion transfers if it's going to stay out of the penalty box. Of course, if Michigan doesn't do that the APR is just going to be another reason Michigan's looking for a new coach.

*(So is Nu'Keese Richardson, FWIW.)

The Transfers And The Damage Done

The Transfers And The Damage Done

Submitted by Brian on July 22nd, 2009 at 2:42 PM

Uh… is there any?

festival_of_books the-birds

I've been fretting about Michigan's future APR scores for a while now without actually looking at the numbers."Wah wah wah," I wah, "APR mumble bits mumble." There's a possibility I'm mildly concerning all of you for no reason, so there's no time like the present to put some numbers behind the concerns.

Varsity Blue has helpfully listed the full dossier of transfers and departures since 2008, when the APR scores leave off. (Actually, the Spartan Tailgate "Rodriguezed" thread is more complete. In retrospect, this is obvious. Warning: useful content goes to zero after post #1.) With this information we can divide and multiply our way to knowledge, like they did in the olden days.


I'm still a little unclear on how this thing is calculated. The NCAA's explanation:

The APR is calculated by allocating points for eligibility and retention -- the two factors that research identifies as the best indicators of graduation. Each player on a given roster earns a maximum of two points per term, one for being academically eligible and one for staying with the institution. A team's APR is the total points of a team's roster at a given time divided by the total points possible.

This seems insufficiently detailed. Do walk-ons put on scholarship count? Do walk-ons count in general? What happens when a player like Mallett transfers halfway through the year? What about early NFL draft departures? I've searched the NCAA's web site and haven't found explanations. (I do have my second attempt at an email in; the first went unanswered.)

Let's make some common sense assumptions in the meantime:

  • Walk-ons count if they're on scholarship. It would be hard for the NCAA to distinguish between a recruited player and a walk-on who earned his way onto the team.
  • They do not count if they are not on scholarship. Allowing any walk-on to count would allow teams to pack their rosters with 5'7" chemical engineers.
  • A transferred player only hits you once.
  • There are two semesters with 170 points available in each, for a yearly total of 340.

A sanity check on that last point: the NCAA has stated a 925 APR corresponds to about a 50- or 60-percent graduation rate and .925 to the eighth power is about 53%. It goes by terms.

Should You Be Mildly Concerned?

Under those assumptions, Michigan's yearly APR maximums for Rodriguez years one and two:


Three transfers (VB missed Quintin Patilla), two medical scholarships—which don't count against M since both players remained in school— and one Marques Slocum 0-for-2 leave Michigan down a minimum of five points. Since the decisions of Ciulla, Mitchell, DeBenedictis, and Gallimore—AKA the entire 2004 offensive line recruiting class—to leave early were not accompanied by transfers I don't think they'd count against Michigan unless any of those guys left school without a degree.

Then there are the departures of Adrian Arrington and Mario Manningham for the NFL. I'm not sure what the NCAA does in the case of early entries. A review of the Greg Oden stuff at Ohio State is inconclusive:

Oden was classified an "0 for 2" in APR jargon, meaning he left school without completing the term and was ineligible for the following season when he left. An "0 for 2," combined with a program's overall APR score of less than 925 (about a 60 percent graduation rate), triggers such a penalty. …

The early departures of Mike Conley Jr. and Daequan Cook are not believed to have negatively affected the score because they completed spring quarter in 2007 before leaving.

Wait, what? Oden gets 0 for 2 for leaving for the NBA but the other two guys don't affect the score even a little? That's odd. I'd guess at least one of the receivers left ineligible; if both did that would cost Michigan another four points.

In the worst case, 331/340 = 973 APR. Even the improbable double-worst case where every player who left Michigan did so with a 0.0 GPA, the attrition only gets Michigan down to 958.

Those numbers immediately makes me think this calculation is goofy even if you factor in some unpublicized dings from players who exhaust their eligibility but don't graduate. But the sanity check is the sanity check. If they were grading this out of 170 points per year the graduation rate they are shooting for would be 75%.


Nine transfers—Hill, Clemons, Babb, Chambers, Horn, McGuffie, Threet, Wermers, and O'Neill—have shoved off. Wermers left ineligible, so Michigan is down at least ten points. Others could have left ineligible, too; we wouldn't know because they'd have to sit out as they got their grades up due to the transfer anyway. I'm willing to bet many dollars that Carson Butler left ineligible, which would make the number 12.

Andre Criswell left the team but remains at Michigan as a grad assistant, so he got a degree and won't count against them. Jason Kates left the team but may not have left school, in which case he wouldn't count. Taylor Hill is also an interesting case since he left after about two weeks and immediately transferred to Kent State. If he got out by the drop/add deadline there's a possibility he doesn't count either.

And then there's the strange case of Marcus Witherspoon, who apparently enrolled enough to invoke transfer rules when he moved to Rutgers, but managed to do so without being eligible, but managed to enroll and redshirt at Rutgers despite supposedly not being eligible, which I guess he wouldn't have to be except then he'd… well. I don't know.

There's a lot of gray area here. The bare minimum is 12 , which would be a 964 APR. The maximum reasonable loss—not everyone left ineligible—would be around 20, which would be a 941 APR.


These numbers appear too optimistic. Michigan's rate of attrition under Carr seemed considerably lower than it does in the first couple years of the Rodriguez era, and those teams checked in with APRs near the worst-case scenario of Michigan's 2009 Transfer Spectacular. Either I'm calculating these wrong or there's a big unknown minus from players who run out of eligibility but leave without a degree. I lean towards the latter pending someone from the NCAA actually responding to an email.

Well, Should You?

If we can squint at the grim transfer parade of last year, make the maximum reasonable negative assumption, and then tack on another six points for non-graduating seniors—which would be over 50% of the class, well outside the Michigan norm—and still get a 923 APR, Michigan is going to be fine.

Even in this unlikely worst-case scenario, that one-year number is barely below the line and should be surrounded by years much higher than that. Rodriguez's attrition should drop considerably as the guys who didn't sign up for this Barwis nut leave the program via means natural and un-.

While Michigan's APR will continue to dip over the next couple years, it probably won't even approach the Mendoza line, let alone dip below it.

Kurt Wermers Got Out When He Had To

Kurt Wermers Got Out When He Had To

Submitted by Brian on July 20th, 2009 at 1:28 PM


Former Michigan offensive lineman Kurt Wermers was academically ineligible when he announced his transfer to Ball State last week, sources told

… But according to sources with knowledge of the situation, Wermers was already out.

His academic struggles would have prevented him from suiting up with the Wolverines. Wermers wasn't even enrolled in summer school at the time of his departure.

Four things:

Wermers' comments now appear even more self-serving. She didn't break up with me, I broke up with her. And she was a whore anyway. Meet my new girlfriend, who looks like a horse. I mean, really: "I thought I'd get out when I could." Super.

(No offense, Ball State fans, it's just that you're in the MAC and all that. You're a very pretty horse.)

Ugh APR. My concern about Michigan's APR tickling the edges of the 925 cutoff is now increased: you get two points per player per semester, one for keeping them at school and another for keeping them eligible. Michigan got 1/2 for Threet in his final semester; they get 0/2 for Wermers, which makes his departure the equivalent of two guys.

Um, why would Wermers be in summer school? Weird little addendum from Rittenberg there at the end. Wermers left the team months ago and Rodriguez officially announced it in May. Obviously he wasn't enrolled in summer school.

Who is Deep Throat here? I'm sure Wermers' academic status is common knowledge in a certain circle of folks close to the program, any one of whom could be a source credible enough for Rittenberg to go with. I hope none of the coaches were peeved enough to be one of them.

Unverified Voracity Analyzes APRs

Unverified Voracity Analyzes APRs

Submitted by Brian on May 8th, 2009 at 12:08 PM

Down Arrow Graph APR. The NCAA has released all the APR information for this year and Michigan's doing quite well, thanks. HOWEVA, I am a bit concerned Michigan's football numbers will dip over the next few years. The four-year rolling numbers:

That's a steady decline as the Carr years waned and attrition increased. The APR issues two points per student per year, one for being academically eligible and one for not leaving, and Michigan's suffered a lot of premature departures.

Boren, Mallett, Manningham, and Arrington are in those 2008 numbers, but many others aren't accounted for yet: Threet, Clemons, McGuffie, Babb, Horn, Chambers, and Kates all left the team after the 2008-09 school year started. I'm not sure if Slocum and Patilla, who left over the summer, are counted, and I don't know if Taylor Hill's extremely brief tenure as a Wolverine—a couple weeks at most—will be held against Michigan. And if I had to bet I'd put my money on Carson Butler coming up a few credits short of his bachelor's in Nerd Massacre Engineering. (Andre Criswell left the team but not the school, and I'd bet he's got a degree, so he shouldn't count.)

Upshot: the transition period is going to hurt Michigan's APR standing just because of the sheer quantity of transfers, and we can expect that 947 to dip considerably next year. I don't think it'll get into the range where Michigan is seriously flirting with sanctions… but I'm not 100% sure or anything.

Another team to watch is Tennessee, which has an APR a point higher than Michigan's and has just suffered ten Kiffin-induced departures.

Meanwhile, penalties are now in full effect and have clubbed basketball teams at OSU, Purdue, and Indiana with scholarship reductions. Indiana is obvious and OSU's addiction to one-and-dones makes them a logical candidate, but Purdue? I guess they just went through a transition period. Ohio State is probably going get to hit next year, too, with Anthony Crater's transfer and the departure of caveman BJ Mullens for the NBA draft. 

Can complaints about this thing being a paper tiger stop now? That's one traditional power and two teams that were in the NCAA tournament last year getting hit with the meanstick. Yes, small schools get punished more heavily but that's because they don't have the resources to support the high-risk players they're recruiting. They should concentrate on kids they can graduate. Myles Brand:

"The truth of the matter," Brand said, "is that if you're going to participate in high-level intercollegiate athletics, you have to provide for academic opportunities for the students. And that's not inexpensive."

Word. Anything that diverts more money, Lebowski, to the people actually on the field instead of the people on the periphery is good.

One downer is the ability to absorb penalties into your year of suck. Indiana lost two scholarships but got the NCAA to agree to these hijinks:

IU anticipated the two-scholarship penalty announced today and took it last season. Purdue did the same with a one-scholarship penalty.

Michigan did something similar under Amaker: hit with a one-scholarship reduction for four years, they crammed three of those into the first year and got out of the last two. Schools shouldn't be allowed to take their penalty whenever it's convenient for them; they should have to take it at a uniform time, convenient or no. Allowing IU to put their two-scholarship penalty towards a year when they already knew they'd be terrible is no punishment at all; the same goes for Michigan conveniently backdating their penalties into a year where they were three scholarships short anyway.

One inexplicable horrible thing though. The good doctor highlights the strangest APR case of the year:

The worst APR score in the country belonged to South Florida, which was also below par in basketball and baseball, but the Bulls avoided scholarship penalties in football by applying for a waiver ... which they received for the second straight season despite an eight-point drop (909, down from 917) from a score that was already eight points below the mandated 925 last year.

WTF? How can a team get a waiver one year, fail to improve their score, and get another waiver? I have an email in to the NCAA's website; we'll see if they respond.

Clarification. A few UV's back I asked whether Pryor was actually booted from OSU's spring game for talking trash. I didn't think he did but wasn't 100% sure; since then several emailers have confirmed that answer is "no."

Sherman-Williams will be crushed. I'm sure I've bitched endlessly about the horrific charging calls that floppy white guys get all the time in college—unless it's Zach Novak, for some reason. It turns out I'm not crazy and the NCAA wants to do something about kids showing up directly under the basket with the opponent already in the air… sort of:

The recommendation on play under the basket won't call for a restricted-area arc painted in the lane as the NBA has, but it prohibits a secondary defender from establishing position in the area from the front of the rim to the front of the backboard. A defender must establish position outside that area to draw a charge or player-control foul.

This sounds frustrating in practice, albeit less frustrating than the current setup. Basketball refereeing suffers from a lack of clarity already and, when possible, rules should be adjusted to be black and white. That goes double for college. An NBA-style no charge circle is black and white. This is pretty vague.

Also, one of the guys quoted in the story is named Dick Hack. He's chair of the men's committee and athletics director at New York-Maritime and sounds like he either leapt out of noir novel or Idiocracy. Various cocktails to you, sir.

Then we'll build this awesome hotel. The coaches poll took a look at the criticisms leveled at it and is considering two bold steps:

  • Not releasing the votes in the final poll.
  • Keeping the identities of the voters secret.

Wait… what? Is Kim Jong-Il in charge of this thing? These are bold steps in exactly the wrong direction. Over The Pylon's already pulled out the flamethrower so I'll just quote them:

So for the coaches poll to have any "credibility" to begin with, we, as fans, are asked to assume that coaches will be informed, participatory, and non-biased. And the only way to ensure that's happening is to ensure that the public can see exactly how these non-biased informed voters are voting. More transparency is the answer.

Context provides heavy sarcasm on "non-biased" and "informed," BTW. The BCS should step in and declare those moves unacceptable if the coaches' poll wants to remain part of the BCS formula. The only thing worse than having biased voters participate in the critically important selection process is having secret biased voters.

Etc.: Sam Keller's suing EA and the NCAA for copying the likenesses of players without paying them. I hope he wins as long as the solution is to pay the players a little bit and not randomization, but if he wins I bet they go with randomization. I don't have a strong opinion on this Daniel Hood thing—he was convicted of rape at 14 and now a Tennessee football recruit—but lean towards think it's okay.