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Penn State Football: Program APR Declines But Stability Likely In Coming Years

by on May 16, 2014 1:30 PM

Penn State football saw its academic standing take a hit on Thursday with the release of the 2012-2013 Academic Progress Rate which placed the Nittany Lions dead last in the Big Ten.

The most recently released mark of 954 is three points above the national average but lower than the previous year's 961 figure and the fifth straight year of a downward trend for the program.

The NCAA calculates APR as follows:

Each student-athlete receiving athletically related financial aid 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 produce the team’s APR. A 930 APR predicts about a 50 percent graduation rate. Teams falling below an APR of 930 face sanctions ranging from practice-time reductions to more severe penalties.

In layman's terms, the APR is a mark of how well athletes are moving through their schooling toward graduation but only half of the equation the NCAA monitors.

Graduation rate is also a factor the NCAA takes into account and is an area Penn State has excelled at for decades. The most recently released figures showed that Nittany Lion football players were graduating over a four-year period at a rate of 85-percent nearly 15-percent better than the national average. 

This year, Penn State’s APR is more than 20 points higher than the NCAA’s threshold, and eight different sports earned stellar marks by NCAA standards so it is not as though academics have been completely thrown aside at Penn State. Even so, the downward trend and conference low mark for football is still a a major footnote on the athletic departments' otherwise positive academic record.

There are however, a few things to keep in mind.

First: The NCAA's open transfer period may have impacted Penn State's APR standing.

An eligible athlete who transfers with a GPA above 2.6 does not hurt the school’s retention rate but it is unknown at this time the academic standing of the likes of Justin Brown, Silas Redd, Anthony Fera and a handful of others who transferred from Penn State over that span. A GPA lower than a 2.6 from a few of those transfers could have hurt the overall figure.


A Penn State spokesperson confirmed that players who transferred after the sanctions reduced the number of earned retention points in the APR formula, which has in turn impacted Penn State's four-year APR score

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 Ultimately, even with a unique set of circumstances and a few aspects of Penn State's particular APR score unknown at this time, the figure has been in a continued decline over the past five years even while graduation rates have soared above national averages. The mostly recently released number is not an outlier but another data point on a downward trend.

The good news for Penn State fans is that head coach James Franklin seems all too willing and ready to tackle the academic records and marks with the same enthusiasm he brings to football. Stability within a program can go a long way toward academic success and if Franklin is really willing to put his money where his textbooks are then it may not be long before this downward trend becomes a thing of the past.

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Ben Jones covers Penn State football and basketball for He's on Twitter as @Ben_Jones88.
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