Tomorrow the madness officially begins for the Huskies. Last Sunday, during an hour-long, televised NCAA Tournament bracket unveiling, we found out that No. 3 UConn would travel to Washington, DC to face No. 14 Bucknell.
A day later, Inside Higher Ed released a different kind of bracket: the Academic Performance Tournament. In its sixth year, Inside Higher Eddescribes the tournament as "…our take on what the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament would look like if teams advanced based on their outcomes in the classroom."
Teams advance through the bracket based on Academic Progress Rate (APR), which the site describes as "…a nationally comparable score that gives points to teams whose players stay in good academic standing and remain enrolled from semester to semester."
The results, while interesting, don't shine a particularly flattering light on UConn, who gets knocked out in the first round by Bucknell.
The Hartford Courant reports that of the 68 schools in this year's tournament, UConn's multi-year APR of 930 ranked 56th. Ratings below 925 can lead to penalties that include the loss of scholarships.
UConn thought enough of Academic Progress Rate to include a clause in coach Jim Calhoun's latest contract that stipulated that Calhoun had to donate $100,000 to the UConn Foundation General Scholarship Fund if the Huskies APR drops below 925.
"We've had more kids go early," Calhoun said a year ago. "You can understand the ramifications of that. We have never 'lost a scholarship because of that, but we've had to do an awful lot of hard work because, as you know, a lot of these kids leave and then have to workout and have the teams try them out. It's been difficult to manage. It's not me. It's me, Jeff [Hathaway], everybody that is involved here at UConn, trying to make sure this works and that we are making normal progress toward a degree and eventually these kids graduating. I truly believe I can make my contribution."
A counterargument to Calhoun's claim that players leaving early explains the low APR: This year's Insider Higher Ed Sweet Sixteen includes UNC, Duke, Texas, Kansas, and Michigan State. All big-time programs who regularly have players leave school early to play in the NBA.
"While it's acknowledged that there are unique situations involving men's basketball graduation rates nationally, certainly everyone in our program would like to see higher rates," athletic director Jeff Hathaway said, according to the Courant. "Our basketball coaches and academic support staff continue to focus on achieving enhanced results from our current team members. In addition, we have an aggressive degree completion program for our former student-athletes of which many have returned to graduate including Donyell Marshall, Scott Burrell and Rod Sellers."