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NCAA Academic Progress Scores Mixed for Varsity Teams

By Caleb Lee, Crimson Staff Writer

The NCAA rankings metric used to assess the academic performances of collegiate athletic programs and determine postseason eligibility gave eight of Harvard’s varsity teams scores below the average compared to those programs at other private institutions over a four-year span. On the flip side, 20 Crimson squads earned perfect marks for the 2012-2013 school year, up from 15 a year ago.

This year’s Academic Progress Rate measurements, which were released by the NCAA this past May, are calculated out of 1,000 points and measure the performance of individual varsity athletic teams. According to the NCAA website, the ranking is “a team-based metric that accounts for the eligibility and retention of each student-athlete, each term.”

The data included in the most recent rankings covers the four seasons from 2009-2010 through 2012-2013 and includes a four-year rolling average submitted by each institution that the NCAA uses to determine postseason eligibility.

In addition to five of the six same teams—men’s basketball, men’s skiing, men’s tennis, women’s skiing, and women’s tennis—that posted below average scores in last year’s report, three more joined the list in the most recent report, with men’s hockey, men’s water polo, and field hockey dipping below the average.

While the men’s basketball squad recorded a perfect score for the most recent period as predicted by the athletic department last year, the previous year’s low score led to the adjusted four-year average remaining below the NCAA average for private schools.

The most drastic change came from the men’s hockey team, which saw its score drop 93 points in a single year, from 991 in 2011-2012 to 898 in 2012-2013, after multiple players withdrew from the team for all or parts of the 2012-2013 school year. But because its four-year score is 974—44 points above the rolling tally of 930 needed to qualify for NCAA postseason competition—the team would have to record low scores for the next few years to incur possible NCAA sanctions.

While the severe decline in the men’s hockey team’s score may raise some flags on the surface, the numbers posted by the NCAA are not set in stone. The NCAA APR guidelines allow for schools to adjust previous years’ data if necessary, leaving the possibility for past scores to be recalculated. According to Michelle Hosick, the associate director of public and media relations at the NCAA, varsity teams can earn points for athletes returning after time away from school, which further deems the score temporary in many circumstances.

“Because of the ability of teams to earn delayed graduation points, [which are] additional points added to a team’s score because of student-athletes who return and graduate after leaving without a degree, and the possibility that the school can go back and adjust and/or correct data for other reasons, [the NCAA doesn’t] ever say a team has to earn [a certain] APR or it will face postseason ineligibility (or penalties, etc.),” Hosick wrote in an emailed statement.

Based on these provisions, the men’s basketball team should receive such points and see its score boosted after Brandyn Curry ’14 and Kyle Casey ’14 returned to the squad and graduated last spring following their withdrawals from Harvard for the 2012-2013 school year.

In a similar fashion, should men’s hockey return and graduate players that had previously left the team and withdrawn from the college, its score would rise accordingly.

—Staff writer Caleb Y. Lee can be reached at caleb.lee@thecrimson.com.

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