The Times West Virginian

Bob Herzel

June 13, 2013

HERTZEL COLUMN: WVU has its academic ship on course

MORGANTOWN — In the real world the initials APR stand for annual percentage rate, a term with which everyone who has a car loan or home mortgage is quite familiar, but in the world of college athletics it is a term that has a somewhat a different meaning.

APR stands for Academic Progress Report and, in a way, it is similar in that collegiate coaches can find themselves living on borrowed time if they do not have a solid APR.

Now the APR is a complicated calculation of academics, eligibility and retention of scholarship athletes.

If you are interested in how it is calculated, my compadre Mike Casazza at the Charleston Daily Mail explained in his Wednesday blog and I’m sure he’d appreciate the hit on his site. Suffice it to say that it is an important item that athletic directors pay attention to, but somewhat dry compared to writing about Geno Smith’s efforts to win the New York Jets starting job or Tim Tebow’s adventures that have brought him to Bill Belichick in New England.

There have been times over the years when West Virginia’s APRs were somewhat shaky, resulting in penalties that include losing scholarships or practice time in offending sports.

Oliver Luck, the athletic director, being who he is — which is a former Academic All-America quarterback and a Rhodes Scholar candidate — promised upon taking over at WVU that academic progress would be a priority.

With that there have been a number of changes in the way academics were approached, especially in football, and Luck apparently put the ship on course.

In this last report, WVU came in a four-year APR of 973, which is not how many yards Tavon Austin accounted for against Oklahoma this year, but what you would call a passing grade in APR, being just a single point below the national average.

Things truly have changed. You might recall the reputation Bob Huggins’ basketball teams had at the University of Cincinnati, word circulating that no one in the program had graduated since Oscar Robertson was at the school, a rumor Huggins strongly denied.

But he really wasn’t turning out Rhodes Scholar candidates, and there have been some easy come, easy go recruits at times at WVU.

It was only a couple of years back, too, when coach Craig Turnbull’s wrestlers actually drew penalties.

In this year’s report, however, basketball and wrestling joined women’s basketball, cross country, gymnastics, and indoor and outdoor track and field in posting one-year marks of 1,000.

The academics turned in by the athletic department actually gave it more to be proud of than its performance on the athletic fields, and if you spelled W-V-U Y-A-L-E you probably wouldn’t hear anything in the way of complaints.

College is, after all, a place to learn.

Isn’t it?

Luck will tell you it is, but even he needs a football team

that doesn’t get slapped around like this past year’s team did or a basketball team that is looking up at a .500 record and doesn’t make it to post-season play.

And that has me worried.

Luck is smart enough to know that his job doesn’t hinge on the APR.

Graduates are great. NFL or NBA draft choices are better.

Right now the emphasis is on fixing the problems in basketball and football and they have taken the approach of looking for a quick fix by going for an influx of junior college athletes.

Now if these players are the athletes you think they are, it must be understood that it was academics that probably put them into junior college … meaning many of them are potential academic problems.

In the end, the coach is charged first with winning, second with winning and third with winning, but for the sake of the kids who are getting an opportunity to learn and earn a college degree along with being winning football players, let’s hope that keep a balance between academics and athletics to live up to what the full college experience is supposed to be.

Email Bob Hertzel at bhertzel@hotmail.com or follow him on Twitter at bhertzel.

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