The NCAA released the latest APR scores for Division 1 schools yesterday, so naturally it is time to determine which conference reigns supreme when it comes to hitting the books and making the grade. The Big Ten leads the way, with the ACC in pursuit. The SEC comes in third with the Pac-12 not far behind in the scores. The Big 12, on the other hand, has some work to do.
The Big Ten put together an average APR of 970, edging the ACC’s average by roughly three points. Even if you accounted for the upcoming realignment changes in the two conferences (Maryland and Rutgers to Big Ten, Louisville to ACC and Maryland leaving ACC), the average APR scores would come out to be the same when rounded to the nearest whole number (I did not include Notre Dame in the ACC numbers). These averages could look a little different a year from now when we see the next wave of realignment changes take place. The American will lose a high number from Rutgers (Big Ten) and will be adding two schools that fell below the AAC’s conference average (East Carolina and Tulsa) but adding another that finished above the average (Tulane). With all three coming from Conference USA, that conference’s average should look different next season with other new programs entering the fold as well.
In the Big 12, Oklahoma State was penalized one day of practice each week in the football season after scoring a 929.41 average over the last four years. The NCAA minimum to avoid any penalty is 930. While Oklahoma State will remain eligible for postseason play (thanks to scoring a 943.54 over two years to meet the two-year minimum of 940), it is time for Oklahoma State to get things straightened out in the classroom. Pat Forde of Yahoo Sports called Oklahoma State out on this issue, suggesting there is no excuse for a school in a power conference to have to deal with this sort of problem.
I took a closer look at Penn State’s APR concerns on Nittany Lions Den. Penn State is an interesting case midway through the sanction period of four years. My first assumption when seeing Penn State had scored the lowest APR score in the history of the football program under this evaluation method was perhaps Bill O’Brien and his staff failed to stress academics in his short time in State College. It seems, however, that the free transfer period at Penn State allowed by the NCAA may have done even more harm as transfers help reduce scores in most situations. How James Franklin turns things around in this department wil be something to watch moving forward at Penn State. Franklin has to coach through two seasons left of NCAA sanctions including a postseason ban, and he has said there will be an emphasis on academics. Coming from Vanderbilt, I have a feeling he knows how to handle this concern. Keeping players in the program will ultimately be a difference-maker though in reversing the trend.