USF makes major APR gains in football, men's hoops
USF's athletic department continues to make major gains in the NCAA's Academic Progress Rate scores, which measure teams' success in maintaining their athletes' eligibility and retention in the program.
USF football made the largest improvement of any BCS school, improving its overall four-year score to a 952, up from 930 a year ago, and the two-year improvement of 43 points is 14 points better than the next-closest by any BCS school. Men's basketball also showed improvement, raising its four-year score from 915 to 937, well above the score of 925 below which a team is susceptible to sanctions from the NCAA.
"I'm excited about it -- I think you can't talk about this without (mentioning) the job that Jason Linders does academically, the addition he's made to our academic team," coach Skip Holtz said. "And the job this staff has done in getting involved in these players' lives."
Holtz said USF is now working to get in touch with any athlete that left the school in the last five years without a degree -- NFL draft picks Terrell McClain and Mistral Raymond are both taking classes this summer, with McClain due to graduate this summer and Raymond on course to do so next spring after his first NFL season.
Eight USF teams posted a perfect score of 1000 for the 2009-10 academic year, highlighted by women's tennis, which was honored by the NCAA last week with special recognition for maintaining a four-year perfect score of 1000.
The only team that faced any penalties from the NCAA was women's basketball, whose score dropped down to 917 from 952 due to heavy turnover in the 2009-10 season. Coach Jose Fernandez lost one player (Jessica Monroe) to academic issues and suspended three others (Janae Stokes, Dominique English, Sequoyah Griffin) indefinitely for a violation of team rules. USF went without two scholarships in women's basketball for the past year as a penalty for the low score, but is now back to full strength for the upcoming season.
"At the end of the day, I hold our kids academically and athletically responsible and for them to make the right decisions," Fernandez said. "I don't mess around. Any time somebody gets in trouble, the penalties I come down with are (appropriate). Just so I have a good APR? There's more to it than that. There are situations that come up that you can't control."
The athletic department as a whole had what it says is the most successful semesters in its history, with an average grade-point average of 3.01 for the spring semester.
"We continue to see strong improvement across the department as it relates to APR, and we couldn't be more excited about the direction we're headed," athletic director Doug Woolard said in a statement. "Helping our student-athletes graduate is one of the core goals of this athletic department, and the progress we've made over the last couple of years is promising."