Cal athletic teams show ambiguous academic progress

The Cal football team posted the second worst APR score in the Pac-12 conference, coming in only ahead of Washington State.
Sean Goebel/File
The Cal football team posted the second worst APR score in the Pac-12 conference, coming in only ahead of Washington State.

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The Cal football team ranks 11th in the Pac-12 in the NCAA’s most recent Academic Progress Report (APR), released Wednesday for a four-year period ending with the 2010-11 academic year.

With a score of 936, the Cal football team’s APR score falls beneath the Division I football average of 948. This marks the third consecutive year in which the team’s figures have dropped, after a high of 970 in 2007-08.

The Stanford football team posted the highest score in the Pac-12. Only Washington State posted an APR score lower than Cal’s.

APR data has been collected by the NCAA since the 2004-05 season.

According to figures from the NCAA’s 2011 Graduation Success Rate Report, the graduation rate of Cal players over a four-year period was 54 percent, down from 65 percent the previous year. The rate was brought down by the team’s most recent class, which graduated at a 31 percent clip.

All Division I sports teams calculate their APR scores each year “based on the eligibility and retention of each scholarship student-athlete,” according to the NCAA. The figure is calculated based on the past four years’ performance.

The average unweighted score for all Cal teams is 978. The overall Division I APR score for all sports was 973.

Though Cal men’s basketball posted its second-highest rate in the last seven years with a score of 950, its score ranked fourth-lowest in the Pac-12, and its graduation success rate of 33 percent was sixth-lowest among major college basketball programs.

Besides football and men’s basketball, women’s track and field (948), softball (952) and women’s basketball (956) turned in the lowest APR scores among Cal varsity sports.

The figures were released as a host of Cal athletes earned Academic All-American honors in recent weeks. The Cal men’s and women’s tennis teams earned perfect APR scores of 1000, testament to the fact Cal can cultivate teams that succeed both academically and athletically.

The men’s tennis team, which improved its APR score each year from 2005-06 to 2009-10, left no room for improvement this year, as it finished with a perfect score of 1000 for the second consecutive year. Of Division I teams with scores in the top decile, only the Ohio State and Stanford teams finished the season with higher rankings.

Each tennis team finished in the top-15 in the year-end ITA rankings, with the women’s team finishing seventh overall this year after advancing to the NCAA quarterfinals. The

Cal women have improved their APR scores for five years running and had the highest finish of teams with scores in the top decile nationally.

Jana Juricova, a women’s tennis player who has earned All-Academic honors three times, was one of ten Pac-12 athletes named Conference Scholar-Athlete of the Year. Juricova, a senior, won the 2011 NCAA singles championship and was named ITA National Senior Player of the Year in May.

But while most Cal teams are in safe water now, the threat of losing postseason eligibility looms.

Teams with scores below a certain threshold can face sanctions from the NCAA, including scholarship losses and restrictions from practice. This year, only teams with scores below 900 can lose access to the postseason, but the requiem rate for postseason entrance will rise to 930 in the next few years, equivalent to a 50 percent graduation rate, according to the NCAA.

The NCAA has already stripped 15 teams of their postseason eligibility because of their low scores. Ten of those were men’s basketball teams, more than any other NCAA sport.

Five other teams will face NCAA sanctions, including three football programs. No Pac-12 teams will face sanctions.

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  • Cal senior

    I am a senior who has had classes every semester with football players. The players are relatively nice guys most of the time, but they absolutely approach their classroom education as if it’s a joke. They are somehow entitled to their seats in these overpacked courses that other legit students get turned away from, and then they hardly ever show up to class. When they do come, they are texting, talking, and awful to anyone who asks them to knock it off. I overheard a shamelessly loud conversation between two players last semester on the day our final paper was due. Most of us had been working for weeks, and had been up all night finishing. These two had just “received” their papers, and were laughing and doublechecking to make sure the topics and most of the content were at least different. They turned the papers in at the beginning of class and left. This is one instance of so many that I’ve watched. I probably wouldn’t care so much if SO much of our campus funding wasn’t going to their new thunderdome while library hours and staff and program funding is being slashed and burned.

  • A_Pullin

    These athletes are clearly primarily athletes, and students. They are taking up spaces that could be given to students who are genuinely interested in their education. The stadium project is forging ahead to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars, despite the ongoing budget crisis.
    I think the path forward is clear: UC Berkeley needs to be split into two schools: UC Berkeley and “Cal”. “Cal” will subsume the entire professional athletics department, whereas UC Berkeley will retain the academic portion, as originally intended. “Cal” can figure out how to get the state to fund their stadium and how to pay for scholarships for drop-out athletes. UC Berkeley can stick to being an actual school, with degree programs and research.

    • I_h8_disqus

      I agree that our athletes should be qualified students. However, I would point out that outside of our large revenue generating sports the athletes for the most part reflect the scholarship levels of the rest of the student body, and they should be admired for excelling at their sports while maintaining good grades and getting their degrees. Within football and basketball, we do need to work on recruiting better students as it would probably help us win games too, and it is embarrassing that Oregon and Stanford have better students than we have within their football and basketball teams.

      I would disagree with your idea about separating UC Berkeley and Cal. Sports are a major way the university connects with its alumni, and a good portion of alumni donations come from that connection. While the university does provide around $10 million a year to sports, the donations from alumni pay that back with a profit, at least when it comes to the capital donations for buildings.

    • Cornelius Suttree

      Do you have any idea how the stadium is being funded? The state has nothing to do with it…

      • I_h8_disqus

        That isn’t completely correct. The reason that we got funding for the stadium is because the loans are backed by the university, which will pay the loan if private sources don’t come through. It is the state’s ability to raise tuition and guarantee payment that made the loan possible.

  • I_h8_disqus

    Tedford can’t coach, can’t win, can’t sell ESP seats, and he can’t even get his players to succeed in school. If the football program is going to do so poorly on the field, they could at least do well in the classroom.

  • Sasha

    Dear Chris,

    Thank you soooo very much for being the first courageous person to bring up the low APRs associated with Cal’s athletic programs. It’s absolutely shameful how the athletic programs at Cal, particularly the football and the basketball teams, have declined academically. Since Sandy Barbour took over as Cal’s athletic director, low academic performance has become norm rather than exceptions. School should take a proactive approach to fix this debacle. How is it that Tedford, the highest paid coach at Berkeley and the second highest paid coach in Pac-12, gets to keep his job with this abysmal academic progress report? As a concerned alum, I urge all fans to stop supporting the athletic department until they address this issue.

    • Cornelius Suttree

      Academics are of course a concern but get your facts straight. Tedford is not the second highest paid coach.

      • I_h8_disqus

        Tedford would be third behind Kiffin and Kelly. I believe that Sean Miller, Arizona’s basketball coach may have the same salary as Tedford. We should recognize that the football programs for Kiffin and Kelly are much better than Tedford’s, and that both USC and Oregon bring in a lot more sports revenue than Cal even with those higher salaries.