Thanks in large part to players who have been taking care of academics before jumping into the NBA Draft, Arizona put up a perfect Academic Progress Report score in 2013-14.
Not so last year.
The Wildcats dropped from 1,000 to 906 in 2014-15, which caused their four-year rating to drop from 1,000 to 979 in numbers the NCAA released today.
The Wildcats have no reason to worry, because that four-year average is the score that counts for penalties, and their 979 is still well above the penalty line of 930.
But the one-year drop in 2014-15 reflects the fact that at least two of UA’s early departing players left while academically ineligible last season. Arizona also may have lost a point when Craig Victor transferred to LSU in midseason.
While student privacy laws prevent a full connect-the-dots analysis (keeping schools from saying exactly who left ineligible) the small number of basketball players make it possible to get a pretty good grip on what happened.
Here’s what we can tell:
The APR score is actually a “batting average” of cumulative scores by every scholarship athlete on the team. Each player can earn one point for retention and one for staying eligible each semester, so on a team of 13 scholarship athletes as UA had in 2013-14, that’s 52 total “at bats.” (UA’s at-bats theoretically were 50 in 2013-14 since Victor only stayed for one semester, though the exact number of at-bats is often adjusted via waivers in a complex and opaque process).
But basically, a 906 score means UA had a percentage of 90.6 in about 50 “at bats,” implying four or five “misses."
Since Victor appeared to leave while eligible, transferring immediately to LSU, that means he cost UA no more than one of the points by leaving. If he left with a GPA of greater than 2.6, he didn't cost UA any points, and if he left with a GPA of less than 2.6 but was still eligible, he was a “1 for 2.”
So unless Arizona had ineligibilities or other factors that aren’t transparent, that probably means UA lost four more points between the early departures of Stanley Johnson, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Brandon Ashley.
If players leave early but do so while eligible and sign a pro contract, they cost no points. But if they leave while ineligible, they can be an “0 for 2.” So losing five or so points can happen quickly when you lose guys early…
“When kids leave or leave early, they generally do what we ask them to do,” UA athletic director Greg Byrne said.
Byrne would not elaborate on what happened in 2014-15, but said that UA had a chance to get back to a perfect score in 2015-16, which will factor into next year’s rolling four-year rate.
Since UA is not losing anyone early to pro ball this spring, that suggests a perfect 2015-16 score will depend largely on whether Justin Simon leaves UA with a 2.6 GPA or better. (Again, transfers with a 2.6 or better don’t cost any points).
“As you know it takes a very small number, especially in basketball, to have a dramatic impact on your number and we have had three really good years in a row,” Byrne said. “This fall we were back to being very strong and we are anticipating the same thing for the season. We have that opportunity” to be perfect.
The Wildcats were perfect last year (based on their 2013-14 success, since scores are delayed by almost a year) suggesting Nick Johnson and Aaron Gordon left while fully eligible in 2014.
Their multi-year rate (counting 2010-11 through 2013-14) was also perfect, because their 2013-14 score was technically 1,024, boosted via bonus points because four players from the Lute Olson era finished up their degrees in 2013-14: Joseph Blair, Isaiah Fox, Channing Frye and Jason Gardner. (Scores greater than 1,000 aren’t recognized on the annual score but do factor into the four-year multi-year score that counts.)
Arizona basketball had a 1,000 score in 2011-12 and a 980 in 2012-13 that also factored into the four-year average.
The drop from 1,000 in multi-year score means UA coach Sean Miller’s APR bonus will decline from $50,000 to $25,000 this year. Miller receives $25,000 if the team’s multi-year APR is 960 or better, and $50,000 if it is 1,000.
Here's the Pac-12 APR scores for men's basketball:
APR scores in 2014-15
Four-year APR scores