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UNM, NMSU athletics post strong APR scores

UNM Lobo seniors Anthony Mathis (32) and Dane Kuiper (14) with their families on hand were honored after their March 6, 2019, Senior Night game. Both graduated from UNM and helped the men’s basketball program post a record high multi-year APR, according to numbers released this week by the NCAA. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Journal)

The Aggies and Lobos both hit their marks in the classroom this year, at least according to the latest Academic Progress Rate scores that were released by the NCAA on Tuesday.

Neither university, in fact, has a team particularly close to facing academic penalties from the NCAA for an APR score dipping below the required 930 mark – either for a single season or for the multiyear APR score calculated for each program over a four-year span.

New Mexico’s overall program APR (average of all sports) is 987. New Mexico State’s is 984.

UNM is now at a full decade and counting since any of its sports teams have been hit with an APR penalty and 13 of the 16 sponsored Lobo sports improved from last year’s all-important “multiyear APR” score, the four-year rolling average for each team.

“I’m so proud with the commitment and the hard work our student-athletes put into their academics,” UNM athletic director Eddie Nuñez said. “Our academic unit, coaches and staff are committed to helping our student-athletes always strive for excellence.”

No Mountain West Conference program in any sport (men’s or women’s) was hit with an APR penalty this year. In the Western Athletic Conference, Chicago State’s men’s basketball program’s multiyear APR score of 915 will result in reduction in allowable practice time, per NCAA rules.

The APR is geared at improving eligibility and retention in a school with teams getting points for keeping a player eligible and in the school for the entire academic year.

Scores released each May reflect the academic progress recorded up until a full year prior. Tuesday’s APR scores reflect the 2018-19 academic year and also come with an updated multiyear score that takes into account a four-year average of the scores that should more accurately reflect the overall state of the program, especially for smaller roster teams that could be hit hard by just one or two players falling off course in a given year.

A score of 930 is needed to avoid penalties from the NCAA in the form of reduced practice time allowed, scholarship reductions or even postseason bans.

The Lobo men’s basketball team scored a perfect 1,000 for the 2018-19 year and now has a program-record high 995 multiyear APR score – an example of the APR formula not necessarily knocking programs whose players may leave the school, so long as they maintained their eligibility during the year they were at UNM.

Tuesday’s scores showed UNM had nine programs post 1,000 scores for the 2018-19 academic year. Two programs – men’s golf and women’s golf – have four-year 1,000 point scores.

The two UNM programs with the lowest 2018-19 single-year scores were football and women’s basketball, each posting scores of 948. The two programs with the lowest multiyear APR are football (943) and baseball (965).

At NMSU, six programs had perfect single-year scores. Both men’s and women’s tennis had 1,000 APR scores over the past four years. The two lowest program scores for the multiyear APR at NMSU are men’s cross-country (949) and football (956).

UNM’s last APR penalty came as a result of the 2008-09 men’s indoor and outdoor track programs (then counted as two sports, now as one for APR purposes) missing the mark. That penalty included a scholarship reduction.

Lobo basketball was last hit with a scholarship loss based on the 2006-07 APR score under former coach Ritchie McKay. Lobo baseball had a scholarship reduction after the 2005-06 and 2006-07 academic years.

At NMSU, the last APR penalty was a practice reduction penalty for men’s cross country after a 929 score following the 2016-17 season. The Aggie football team has been hit five times since 2004 with penalties – scholarship reductions four times (all more than a decade ago) and a practice reduction after the 2013-14 APR scores were posted. Aggie men’s basketball was last hit with a penalty after the 2007-08 scores were posted.

The APR certainly isn’t without its criticism, however. Some universities, including UNM, have even taken APR bonuses out of coaching contracts in recent years – not as a sign of de-emphasizing academics, but rather an acknowledgement that APR itself isn’t necessarily the best metric to reward a head coach.

The worst penalties for low APR scores generally have hit historically black colleges and universities at an alarmingly disproportionate rate compared to the entire college athletics landscape.

This year, for instance, 23 teams face penalties due to failing to meet the APR benchmarks the NCAA requires. Of those, 18 are from historically black colleges and universities. The other five include the WAC’s Chicago State men’s basketball team, the McNeese State FCS-level football program and three sports at Stephen F. Austin.


NCAA Academic Progress Rate

Here are the multi-year rates, based on the 2015-16, 16-17, 17-18 and 18-19 academic years, for both of New Mexico’s Division I/FBS universities (a score of 930 is required to avoid possible NCAA penalties):

Sport – UNM – NMSU

    Baseball – 965 – 974

    Men’s basketball – 995 – 972

    Men’s cross-country – 982 – 949

    Football – 943 – 956

    Men’s golf – 1,000 – 975

    Men’s tennis – 980 – 1,000

    Men’s track & field – 976 – n/a

    Women’s basketball – 973 – 970

    Women’s cross-country – 996 – 994

    Women’s golf – 1,000 – 985

    Softball – 983 – 980

    Women’s soccer – 994 – 971

    Swimming & diving – 980 – 980

    Women’s tennis – 992 – 1,000

    Women’s track & field – 988 – 990

    Volleyball – 995 – 985

Source: NCAA

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