NCAA Should Open Up APR

NCAA Should Open Up APR

All this talk about APR, it's calculation methods, et cetera, got me curious. So I went to the NCAA's web site to check out data from the current report, hoping to compare it to data from last year's report for a handful of different schools.

I'm pretty apt at finding stuff that's available on the web, but I couldn't locate a link for last year's data anywhere on the site. I called a professional colleague who has monitored APR, and that person had the same trouble. It seemed last year's data was nowhere on NCAA.org.

But that couldn't be. Remember the orchestrated outcry last year over the release of the report. Remember headlines screaming that Alabama could lose nine scholarships in football? And by no means were such headlines limited to Alabama. Schools in every region in the country were given a public de-pantsing because their poor APR story. A lot of every day football fans got scared, and academia got its day in the sun.

So, surely there was some valuable data behind all those headlines, right?

Okay, you've probably guessed by now that's not exactly the case. I called the NCAA to ask what gives, and was told by a very forthright and kind person in the PR office that the reason I couldn't find the data was because it had been pulled from the NCAA web site.

But I was hoping to compare reports from last year to the current report for several different schools, I said. Is there no way to find that information through the NCAA site?

Again, very forthrightly, I was told, "We don't want you to try to compare the two because there are different data now and they don't really compare."

Didn't want me to compare? Why not?

This, I was told, because of different "squad-size adjustments" that changed the numbers (and changed them drastically in certain situations, I believe). Now, I understand that numbers can change drastically when you begin with a very small subset and come back with a larger population.

But here's where I am confused. Why was there such a public hanging a year ago if the samples weren't big enough and the numbers were irrelevant? Why did the NCAA take the drastic step of publicly releasing preliminary APR scores just weeks after it informed the schools what the criteria for passing and failing would be?

I was assured by the NCAA spokesperson that the current data would not disappear in the future the way last year's data has done. Even if that is true, it does not provide enough transparency in the process to be given widespread credibility.

Let's be clear that even last week's APR data does not encompass the full collection of data the NCAA wants. That's why there were symbols denoting that a program under the 925 cut score, as Alabama's football program was, would not take any scholarship reductions.

All this, not to mention the fact that there is no uniform code to ensure that the data is collected the same by all institutions, and the fact that the numbers that compile the APR score of a school are not made publicly available, calls this "reform" into question more with each passing day.

The NCAA should make all past, present and future data available for public consumption and scrutiny, not just the flavor of the month report. If comparing past data to present data can be explained by squad size adjustments, make them transparent and verifiable.

Millions of dollars flow into the NCAA coffers each year largely due to the participation of federally funded public institutions. As Mark Alesia, of the Indianapolis Star reported today, the NCAA made over $500 million last year, and NCAA president Myles Brand took home over $870,000.

If the APR rating is to be taken seriously, the NCAA should make available to the public the myriad of data compilations required to generate the number. The methods that were used to generate the calculation, along with the signature of a high-ranking academic officer should also be available for public scrutiny. Otherwise, competing institutions will take a further plunge into the NCAA regulation without competitive verification.

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