FAYETTEVILLE — The Arkansas men’s basketball program has struggled through Academic Progress Rate headaches the past several years, resting well below the NCAA’s mandated cutline.
The Razorbacks finally had good news this year, though.
Their APR score has exceeded the NCAA’s standards.
Arkansas basketball recorded a multi-year APR of 951, according to data released Tuesday. The success helped Arkansas exceed the NCAA’s multi-year APR benchmark in all 19 sports for the first time. The Razorbacks had been 18-for-19 the previous three years with the basketball program the only one missing the cutline of 900.
“To see the progression our men’s basketball program has made in APR the past five years is truly remarkable,” Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long said in a news release. “It was not a short-term process and was accomplished only as a result of a strategic and focused plan developed by our academic and coaching staffs and through the concentrated efforts of our men’s basketball student-athletes.”
The APR is a four-year look at a team’s classroom performance and this year’s data covers the 2008-09 to 2011-12 academic years. Points are awarded for a scholarship athlete’s retention and academic eligibility.
Improving Arkansas basketball’s APR has been a lengthy and challenging process for a program hurt most by the single-year score of 755 from the 2007-08 academic year. The Razorbacks suffered a scholarship loss two years ago and consistently faced the possibility of other penalties like loss of practice time or postseason bans.
Jon Fagg, Arkansas’ senior associate athletic director for compliance, described the process as a “long road for all of us.” But he said the hard work has finally been rewarded after Arkansas’ multi-year score for men’s basketball moved from its low point of 886 after the 2008-09 academic year to 951 in the NCAA’s most recent data.
“It’s hard to believe that we’re here to be honest with you,” Fagg said. “We’ve just spent such an incredible amount of time making sure we’ve finished the job.”
The Arkansas basketball program had a multi-year score of 894 last year, but avoided further NCAA penalties because it had shown significant APR improvement.
The biggest reason for the 57-point jump to 951 this spring is the crippling single-year score of 755 finally rolled off the four-year total. The program’s low point — which came from a large outgoing class during former coach John Pelphrey’s first season with the Hogs — was replaced by the single-year score of 977 this spring.
Fagg said the latest single-year score also was proof of Anderson’s important contributions to the program’s academic success. Anderson was not available for comment Tuesday afternoon, but said in a news release he was pleased the program “continues to make significant progress in the classroom.”
“I appreciate all the efforts made by our administration and academic staff to help provide our student-athletes with the guidance and resources necessary to succeed,” Anderson said in the news release. “I am proud of our young men who have made the commitment to work in both the classroom and on the court.
“We will continue to have the expectation within our program that student-athletes work toward graduation while competing for the University of Arkansas as a member of our men’s basketball team.”
The basketball program’s success was significant, but not the only cause for applause within the athletic department. Arkansas also lauded the work of the other 18 sports, including five that recorded a perfect multi-year score of 1,000.
Arkansas’ men’s golf, men’s tennis, gymnastics, volleyball, and swimming and diving teams were recognized for their APR scores last week. It was the first time Arkansas has had five programs earn public recognition awards from the NCAA.
The program-wide APR average — which is not an official number kept by the NCAA — was 974.7. It topped the program’s previous high of 970.3.
“I’m proud of our coaches, academic staff and most importantly our student-athletes for the continued record-setting progress we are making in APR,” Long said in APR.