APR Changes Football Recruiting – and Retention
By Josh Castle and John Barnes
Division I adopted the Academic Progress Rate in 2004 as part of a broader academic-reform effort to better measure progress toward degree and hold institutions more accountable for graduating student-athletes.
As with any change of that magnitude, opinions differed at the time on whether the initiative would be successful. Many coaches objected to their programs being penalized for student-athletes who left either for the pros or to another school. They also felt they could not effectively discipline players who become a nuisance to the program by removing the student from the team without being penalized via the APR.
To better understand some of the perceived effects of the APR on Division I athletics – particularly in football – we asked directors of football operations at 234 schools whether the APR has prompted institutions to revise both how they recruit student-athletes and how they devote resources to retain them once they are enrolled.
We found that more than 45 percent of the 103 respondents said they changed their recruiting strategy due to the APR. More than half (56.3 percent) said they would be at least slightly less likely to recruit student-athletes who could be identified as potential discipline problems. Almost 65 percent were less likely to recruit academically challenged student-athletes, and about 45 percent said they would shy away from “special admits.”
While those results may be positive, the opposite appears true when it comes to retention.
About 43 percent of respondents felt their programs were at least slightly likely to retain student-athletes who become discipline problems. Add in another 5.8 percent who felt their programs were extremely more likely to retain a discipline problem, and you have almost half the teams feeling as though the APR forces them to keep student-athletes despite their not abiding by team or institutional policies.
Meanwhile, only about 9 percent of football programs said they were slightly less likely to retain these types of student-athletes.
Roughly 60 percent of college football operations directors said they have not changed retention strategies due to the APR legislation, especially when it comes to student-athletes who have convicted misdemeanors or felonies. However, our survey showed that 17.5 percent of programs were at least slightly more likely to retain a student-athlete who has been convicted of a misdemeanor. Only 6 percent of football programs said that they were at least slightly more likely to retain a student-athlete convicted of a felony.
From our survey results, we believe the APR and its accompanying reforms have made college football programs rethink their recruiting and retention strategies. The APR has made Division I programs attempt to recruit more academically qualified prospects who have a decreased risk of becoming discipline problems. That in turn has led to improved graduation rates.
However, there may have been a price for this victory, since football programs also appear to be more inclined to retain discipline problems on their rosters. It certainly poses an interesting dilemma for the coach, who must now choose between retaining a potential problem or risking a lower APR score.
John Barnes is an assistant professor in the department of health, exercise and sport sciences at the University of New Mexico. Josh Castle is an assistant professor at Indiana University of Pennsylvania.
© 2010 NCAA