June 11, 2013
BERKELEY - With an average score of 975 in the latest Academic Progress Rate (APR) multiyear scores announced by the NCAA Tuesday, Golden Bear student-athletes continue to perform well in the classroom to complement their success in the athletic arena. At the same time, the most recent data suggests that a broad range of steps recently taken to improve the football team's academic performance are beginning to have the desired effect.
Based on statistics through August 2012, the Cal men's and women's tennis and women's gymnastics teams posted APR scores of 1,000 - the highest possible - and were publicly recognized for their high achievements by the NCAA last week. A total of 12 Golden Bear squads had APRs of 985 or better, with five teams above 990. Overall, Cal's average team score was at least 975 for the fourth year in a row, with 13 different teams publicly honored by the NCAA for their APR performances during that span.
Each year, the NCAA tracks the classroom performance of student-athletes on every Division I team through the annual scorecard of academic achievement, known as APR. The rate measures eligibility, graduation and retention each semester or quarter and provides a clear picture of the academic performance in each sport. The most recent APRs are multi-year rates based on scores from the 2008-09, 2009-10, 2010-11 and 2011-2012 academic years.
"We have an obligation to provide our student-athletes the resources they need to succeed in all facets of their collegiate experience," Director of Athletics Sandy Barbour said. "While much public attention is paid to exploits in athletics, accomplishments in academics are just as important here at Cal. It has to be part of our culture, from the administration through our coaches and the student-athletes themselves. We all share that responsibility. While many of our teams sport outstanding APR scores, we still have work to do and won't be satisfied until all of our programs are achieving at a high level."
In particular, emphasis has been placed on the Cal football program, which ranks 12th in the Pac-12 with a multiyear APR score of 935. While the Bears were second in the conference every year from 2005-09, the team's scores have fallen in recent years, and the football coaching staff and athletic department administration have introduced several measures to improve the results.
"One of the specific reasons behind the hiring of Sonny Dykes as our football coach last fall was his commitment to academic performance," Barbour said. "From the beginning, he has instituted standards for accountability and expectations for the entire team as it relates to academics. It may take some time for the scores to reflect the progress we are making, but it is clear that we are moving in the right direction."
Among the steps taken recently are
holding monthly meetings with athletic department leadership, the faculty athletic representative, academic advisors and Coach Dykes to review the team's academic improvement plan;
increasing the number of academic staff who work directly with the football program to help understand and manage problems before they arise;
encouraging players to take more challenging classes earlier in their careers to avoid the distractions that can come in a final season that can keep them from finishing their degrees;
focusing on recruiting prospects who fit in better academically at Cal;
establishing policies for student-athletes in their final semester that they must graduate or leave school in good academic standing in order to continue to train at the Simpson Center or in Memorial Stadium;
encouraging former players to return to campus to complete their degree work.
"Our football team has some challenges in front of us," said Dykes, who became Cal's football coach last December. "We all know that we need to improve academically, and we set those expectations at our very first meeting. When our players wake up in the morning, I want them to say that their primary focus is to get a degree from Cal. Grades from the spring semester reflected that new-found commitment, and I expect the trend to continue as we move into the fall and beyond."
While the APR numbers announced Tuesday are based on figures before Dykes arrived on campus, actions taken by the football program, some of which were implemented well over a year ago, have shown immediate results. A combined 21 football players graduated at the end of the recently completed fall and spring semesters and another two are on track to earn their degrees this summer. In addition, the football team's combined GPA for the spring 2013 semester was its highest in at least five years, more than three-tenths of a point above its GPA for spring 2012.
Similar measures have been implemented with other programs as needed. After initially posting low results, men's basketball scores have risen in six of the past seven years following the introduction of an academic improvement plan. Softball has also seen its APR scores go up a remarkable 46 points in the last two years to a current value of 965. And while women's basketball's four-year APR average fell to 941, its year-by-year scores have climbed 43 points since 2009 with a higher score anticipated next year, which should produce an improved four-year rate.