After a stretch of poor Academic Progress Rate (APR) scores from 2009-2011, the University of Connecticut men’s basketball program has improved its APR dramatically.
UConn’s APR was below 900 for two years in a row (2008-2009 and 2009-2010), at a time when the national average for men’s Division 1 basketball programs was around 940, the NCAA reports. In 2013, the men’s team was banned from postseason play because of “subpar” APR scores, Dom Amore, the UConn men’s basketball beat reporter for the Hartford Courant, said. Since then, the team’s APR has not dipped below 950 while the Huskies have achieved a perfect score of 1000 in three of the seasons since then.
“Since the academic problems the UConn men had, the school has vastly upgraded its support system,” Amore said. “The teams have academic counselors who keep constant tabs on players’ attendance, homework, papers and performance. The advisors report to the coach if there are any problems, and he immediately takes action.”
In the 2000s and early 2010s, the UConn men’s basketball team was on par with the powerhouse women’s basketball team in terms of success on the court. As of late, the men’s team “has been criticized for losing records, the change in coaches, alleged NCAA infractions and the [former Coach Kevin] Ollie-contract dispute,” Amore said. All the while, the women’s team has won six of the last ten NCAA championships and routinely makes the Final Four.
Now, the men’s team APR has surpassed the women’s team’s rate. The current four-year APR average for the men’s team is 995, compared to the women’s score of 989. During the 2014 championship season, the graduation rate for the men’s team was only 8 percent, but it has steadily improved to 67 percent this year, Amore said.
The 67 percent graduation rate is on par with other nationally competitive programs, and is higher than the rates for the UConn women’s team and Yale University’s men’s team, Amore said.
The national Division 1 APR rate has risen over the past five years for both men’s sports and women’s sports. Men’s APR rates rose from 964 in 2013 to 966 in 2017 while the women’s APR of 975 in 2013 has now increased to 983, the NCAA reports.
The APR averages for the American Athletic Conference, which UConn is a member of, have decreased from 976 to 971 for men’s basketball teams and increased from 980 to 983 for women’s basketball teams, the NCAA reports.
The NCAA approved a new revenue distribution plan in 2016 that will begin in the 2019-2020 academic year. The plan will create academic distribution units using 75 percent of the annual increase in their broadcast rights contract, and schools can earn units by reaching certain thresholds of academic success, the NCAA reports. Some thresholds include a single-year, all-sport APR of 985 or higher and an overall all-sport Graduation Success Rate of 90 percent or higher.
UConn’s previous four-year APR averages indicate that the athletic programs are in a position to earn academic distribution units in the future.
Since 2012, the UConn men’s team has had three different coaches: Jim Calhoun, Ollie and the newly hired Dan Hurley. Amore said all three care deeply about academics, but he added that there was less attention to detail and inadequate academic support in Calhoun’s final years. This changed with Ollie’s first contract, which “specifically called for him to pay close attention to APR and get the scores up,” Amore said.
Amore said he expects a strong commitment and attention to detail from him from Hurley, due to the coach’s detail-oriented nature and his history as an educator. Hurley worked as a history teacher at St. Benedict’s Prep in Newark, New Jersey.
Brady Grustas of Torrington is a senior at the Taft School in Watertown.